Revenge is a dish best served cold, and movie character John Wick has an ice cold touch. In both Keanu Reeves revenge films, Wick keeps getting pulled back into an underground world of organized crime despite his desires to live a normal life. This internal tug of war is at the core of Wick’s convictions, but it’s also at the root of the people who seek different kinds of revenge every day.
“People want to teach somebody a lesson,” Thomas Tripp, a professor in the department of psychology at Washington State University, told Inverse. “If we don’t believe we’ve taught someone a lesson, we don’t enjoy the revenge, and it’s extremely difficult for other people to learn lessons.”
Tripp’s research deals with workplace revenge. Though Reeves’s hitman problems in John Wick probably seems like the furthest thing from white-collar squabbles, Tripp’s research and the overblown action-adventure have a surprising amount in common.
Tripp broke down revenge-seeking into three main categories. One is simple goal obstruction, or when someone gets in your way when you’re trying to achieve something. The second is when we don’t like people who break the rules and get away with it. The last is that people seek revenge when they feel their reputation is sullied. Wick’s relationship to revenge leans particularly into the latter categories throughout both films.