John Wick and The Tattoo
The John Wick movies began with a hitman pulled out of retirement and set on the path of revenge. The action movie franchise is not only filled with nail-biting sequences but it is also rife with symbolism. Though many of them are never discussed openly in the movies like the use of gold coins, the origin of the High Table, and how almost half the population appears to be part of a secret group of assassins. One of the most important symbols are the tattoos that cover John Wick‘s back, and they give us some clue about the assassin.
The First Appearance
In the first John Wick movie, we see Wick pulling himself up after the ambush and his dog, the last present from his wife being killed, is set on the path of revenge. The next shot is the shower scene where the tattoos on his back are clearly shown. This can be a symbolism of a man embracing his old self, a self that he could never leave behind. Like the ink that is seeped deep into his skin, his past would always come back to him. There are various images and words that are inked into him and some of them may give us a glimpse about his past which has never been discussed in detail in the films as of now. So of the interpretation of the tattoos is given below.
The first and most significant of the Tattoos is the phrase ” Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat“. This can be an indication that Wick is a Marine Corps vet. The 2nd battalion 3rd marines have something close to the same but their spelling differs and it goes ” Fortes Fortuna Juvat”. This might explain Wick’s method of fighting, the violent tendency that he exudes. The most commonly accepted translation of the phrase is “fortune favors the bold“. Though there are some sources that dismiss this translation and say that the Latin phrase indicates Fortuna, the Roman Goddess of fortune and fate, who is said to guide the bold towards good luck. According to this interpretation, John Wick seems to be pagan.
The next tattoo, the praying hands, two hands joined together in prayer denounces the pagan theory. This tattoo indicates that Wick might be a man of faith. This is further cemented when in John Wick 2 we see Wick clearly admitting that he fears damnation. With this interpretation, we can portray Wick as a fallen angel. The next tattoo, the snarling wolves might indicate his Russian connection. We saw in parabellum that Wick was an orphan adopted by the Ruska Roma and in the first movie we learn that he helped to build the Tarasov mob. Both these have Russian connections.
The praying hands over a cross tattoo also have another symbolic connection one that is of fine arts. It appears to be a copy or one close to it of German artist Albrecht Durer’s pen and ink study titled ” Study of the Hands of an Apostle“. This might indicate that Wick developed a taste for fine arts and he retired with an affinity for them. With his connection to people with the lavish lifestyle, it is no wonder he knows about art.
The other interpretation
The tattoo may also be a symbol of allegiance to certain mobs. We see in the franchise that Wick thought his career has been helped or has helped people belonging to various mobs. The tattoos may symbolize that. It can also be a mark of respect for his adopted family which played a big role in making him such. We see from Parabellum that Wick’s original name was Jardani Jovanovich and he builds himself from nothing. The tattoo mostly importantly the first one may show the assassin’s ethos in life. He is bold, fierce, and above fear. Nothing stops him from completing his mission. For Wick, it truly might be “Fortune favors the Bold“.
The most significant meaning of the tattoos maybe to show that he is apart from the crowd. Not only Wick the association he belongs to the High Table, they’re also not part of the regular society. The tattoos are to set them apart. This is further confirmed in John Wick 2 where we see a group of women, who probably be former assassins, working the background.
The tattoos may possess another valid symbolism in the movie than what we have interpreted here. Whatever it may be it sure is interesting to keep on guessing.