This Week's Trailer: A journey through John Wick, which stars Keanu Reeves as a hitman who comes out of retirement to kill the people who murdered his dog. (Yes. That's what I said.) The movie also stars Willem Dafoe, Bridget Moynihan, and Alfie Allen, better known as Theon "Reek" Greyjoy on Game of Thrones. (In theaters Oct. 24)
This Week's Tunes: At the top, we get "Have Love Will Travel," a classic 60s rocker by The Sonics. Then we transition to "Brain Reaction," a thundering club jam by Break Science featuring Redman and Lettuce.
How Literal Are They? If Die Hard's John McClane were a bad guy, then he'd basically be John Wick. In both cases, you've got a dude who can effortlessly kick the crap out of everyone around him, but who leavens the violence with his sassy mouth. So even though we're supposed to be awed by all the macho business, we're also supposed to think, "Hey, that guy's funny! I could hang out with him!" The target audience should want to be John Wick, is what I'm saying, and the fact that he's a killer just makes him even more appropriate for our antihero era.
But here's the thing: Movies like this have to be very careful about how they present their leading men. If the guy is too funny or emotional, then he might not seem like a straight dude's idol. If he's too vicious, then he's not as easy to root for. So you'll notice how carefully calibrated the trailer is to give us the best of both worlds. Yes, he's cracking heads, but he has permission to do it because these bad guys tried to kill him, and even worse, they killed the dog that was his last tie to his late wife. (A dead wife is always a good excuse for an action hero to go ballistic.) And every wisecrack is delivered in the midst of some life-threatening situation, which proves how cool John can be under pressure.
The trailer tunes are a major part of this equation. Starting with a classic rock song immediately lets you know that John Wick has game, and like his vintage car, it communicates that he's old-school or authentic or whatever you want to call it. But before you can think he's a geezer---and Keanu Reeves is 50, so that's a real possibility---the hip-hop/techno beat drops in to keep things modern.
How Emotional Are They? This is where it gets interesting. The songs are all posture, but the trailer itself seems to have a warped sense of humor, like one of those early Guy Ritchie movies or maybe a vintage Schwarzenegger flick. (The fact that this all starts because of a puppy is kind of ludicrous, you know?) But at the same time, the music choices seem sincere. If Wick were firing his gun to a techno remix of "…Baby One More Time", that might indicate the movie's overall attitude. But here it's unclear if the smirk or the swagger is going to prevail.
Will We Associate Them With This Movie? "Have Love Will Travel" has been around the block, and it's even in the commercials for an Anthony Bourdain show on CNN. But to the extent that I remember it all, I probably will connect "Brain Reaction" to this trailer.
Overall Trailer Tunes Effectiveness: I'm very interested to know if this movie is going to be a loopy comedy or not, and the tunes keep the mystery alive.