No action film in recent years has attempted the complex world-building of John Wick and its subsequent sequels. With heart-pounding chase sequences, balletic fight scenes, and a colorful cast of memorable characters, the John Wick films have inspired a return to form for action veteran Keanu Reeves as well as new ground being broken for the entire genre.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the John Wick Universe is the economy of the criminal underworld. Under the purview of the High Table, a body of authority that's "older and bigger" than any government on Earth, assassins carry out contracts and get paid handsomely for their services. Aside from astronomical remuneration, the unique currency of the underworld takes on the form of mysterious gold coins, blood oath markers, and talismans that can be utilized to garner global safe passage. As intriguing as it is, the Wickonomy sometimes gets bogged down by the charisma of its own existence. Here are 10 hilarious ways it doesn't make any sense.
10 MENIAL AND SERVICE POSITIONS
Over the course of the John Wick films, we see a variety of positions being held by individuals that work under the High Table's purview. There are cleaning crews that come and take care of a particularly "messy" kill, wiping away all traces of it for a fee. There are operators that control the switch boards that post and coordinate the kill lists of individuals with bounties on their heads.
It's never explained how these positions exist, or if everyone involved with the unique guild of assassins of which John Wick is a part of were also trained killers. For instance, Winston and Charon of the Continental were both former contract killers before they went into the hospitality business.
9 IDENTIFICATION WITHIN THE GUILD
While it's true that probably those within the cohort are aware of each other's identification as a fellow member through subtle tells, there are instances throughout the John Wick films where characters are revealed to be under the High Table and yet give no indication.
In John Wick, Charlie's clean-up crew are clearly criminal associates, but what about Jimmy the cop? John Wick knows to go to establishments where his "money is good", i.e., will accept gold coins such as the doctor in John Wick Chapter 2. Yet he also randomly gets into a cab and the driver addresses him by name, accepting payment of a gold coin.
8 THE WORTH OF THE GOLD COINS
Every assassin under the High Table's purview receives specially minted gold coins. These gold coins are used as a currency between members for services and goods. John Wick uses them to pay his cleaning crew and book a room at The Continental in the first film, and in its sequels for everything from a new suit to a new arsenal.
Exactly how much is each coin worth? The higher/riskier the service, the more gold coins it costs seems to be the logic applied, but John Wick's been shown giving stacks of them away for services that seem insignificant by contrast. Sonny even makes an off-handed remark in John Wick 2 that one drink costs a gold coin, the same price as a gun.
7 THE CIRCULATION OF THE GOLD COINS
The gold coins serve as the currency within John Wick's assassin guild because they are both difficult to trace, and accepted worldwide. John Wick passes them out fairly frequently in the films in exchange for all sorts of services, and it's never made clear what happens when he runs out of them.
Does he take real money and exchange it for more coins? Are more coins delivered to him? Do you only acquire them by requesting them in stacks from the front desk of The Continental? Does The Mint we see in John Wick: Parabellum send each Continental a finite number of coins to put into circulation?
6 THE CONTINENTAL'S SEIGNORAGE
At The Continental, an assassin is guaranteed security and secrecy. For one gold coin, you can let your guard down and have a drink in the lobby bar, which may be worth the current $1,2000 price of gold right now. What does the establishment get out of assassins only being able to use the gold coins?
It may be because they benefit from seignorage. By circulating the gold coins in the first place, and getting a profit from the minting and selling of the coins, they can enforce a strict economic system because of the valuable services they provide the assassins that patron the hotels.
5 GUN SELLERS, TAILORS, AND OTHER VENDORS
In the John Wick universe, assassins know they'll have to part with several gold coins to get a beautifully tailored suit, a new pistol, or get a wound stitched up. The gun sellers, tailors, and vendors are to be found in and around The Continental, and are therefore under the purview of the High Table.
After they receive the gold coins, how do they circulate them back into the criminal economy? They surely exchange them for goods and services in the real world, but the gold coins help The Continental accurately tax the revenue of all services rendered without them being able to fib.
4 THE WORTH OF MARKERS
To possess a marker in the John Wick universe is to possess something more valuable than currency. A marker is power over someone else's life. To be given a marker from someone means they owe you an incredible favor, a sacrifice that may even end their life.
John Wick both has a marker and has been given markers, and it seems as though that system of trading favors never truly ends. In each different film, there rarely seems to be a point where an exchange is "called even", so what is the true value of a marker, and are there levels of severity?
3 GOLD VS. MILLION DOLLAR CONTRACTS
Gold coins are the currency within the criminal underworld, but they don't appear to be the currency involved in criminal contract hits. For instance, when a bounty is put on John Wick's head in the first film, it's for $7,000,000. That price doubles by the third film.
Assassins seem to be paid in real Dollar amounts, but there's no real clue on the exchange rate of those gold coins. The gold coins represent service and favors, but it's unclear if assassins could, using money they made on contract hits, purchase the gold coins circulated by The Continental.
2 IS THE WORTH OF A GOLD DEPENDENT ON REPUTATION?
Gold coins are used for everything from drinks to guns anywhere a Continental hotel is located, but they can also be used to pay for the medical services of doctors as well as the services of cab driver's outside of it's purview. Individuals seem impressed to be receiving coins from John Wick, so does the worth of a gold coin gain greater value depending on the reputation of its possessor?
Because he's John Wick, the best assassin under the High Table, it's possible that his trading of gold coins carries more weight than other assassins. Instead of simply being boons, they may carry the added weight of his reputation, like a calling card.
1 THE TICKET
When John Wick visits Ruska Roma headquarters - the criminal organization that has an "understanding" with the High Table - he carries a special token for The Director. Though it resembles an ordinary rosary, it's actually a "ticket" which will grant him safe passage anywhere he wants to go.
Similar to a marker, it seems to be a talisman which has meaning that can be enforced at will to garner services in exchange for services rendered. Presumably he helped The Director when she needed it, and she gave him the "ticket" in gratitude. Is it the only one? Does each "ticket" take on value no matter what the object is?