There surely isn’t much crossover between the audiences for “John Wick” and “A Dog’s Purpose.”
The hyperviolent action spectacle and the family-friendly drama don’t appear to have all that much in common.
But the movies, both of which have sequels opening Friday, are among the most traumatic things for dog lovers ever to come out of Hollywood — at least until Mel Gibson gets around to directing “The Passion of Old Yeller.”
“John Wick” begins with the titular assassin (Keanu Reeves) burying Helen (Bridget Moynahan), the wife for whom he left the killing-for-hire game. Then, as part of her final act, a beagle puppy is delivered to Wick’s door, because Helen knew he’d need something to love once she was gone.
Daisy may be the single most adorable puppy in the history of puppies. She curls up beside Wick at every chance and laps up the cereal and milk he feeds her, because apparently that puppy delivery service didn’t coordinate with a kibble delivery service.
Then, after Wick rebuffs a gangster’s son when he asks to buy Wick’s classic Mustang, the punk and some goons break into his home, tune him up with a baseball bat, steal the car and beat Daisy to death.
As movie shocks go, it’s right up there with that reveal in “The Crying Game.”
“A Dog’s Purpose” would have to be more uplifting, right?
Bailey’s thoughts are narrated by Josh Gad, whom your kids will recognize as the snowman from “Frozen.” He comes into the world, focuses his little puppy eyes on his mother, plays for a bit and is nabbed by a dogcatcher. “It seemed like such a short life,” Bailey thinks on his way to being euthanized a mere 35 seconds into the movie.
He’s reborn and escapes from a puppy mill, where he’s picked up by some junkmen hoping to sell him. Left in a hot truck while they go to a bar, a dehydrated Bailey almost dies a second time, all in the first three minutes.
What is going on here?
John Wick’s motivation
As horrifying as it is, at least Daisy’s death drives the action for “John Wick,” its sequel, “John Wick: Chapter Two,” and Friday’s “John Wick: Chapter Three — Parabellum.”
In the first film, before he even changes out of his bloody T-shirt, Wick takes a sledgehammer to his basement’s floor to unearth the weapons cache he buried there years ago when he gave up the assassin life. Then he showers and slips on a three-piece suit and a tie before laying waste to a dozen killers sent to his home.
By the end of the movie, he’s dispatched, by my unofficial count, 63 more. He’s also broken into a veterinarian’s office in search of medical supplies. After stapling himself together, he liberates another dog with a simple, “It’s OK. Let’s go home.”
It’s a sweet ending — until you realize that dog could have belonged to some poor child who’ll never know what happened to her best friend.
What’s the purpose?
The sadism on display in “A Dog’s Purpose,” meanwhile, is just absurd.
After being rescued from that sweatbox and taken home by a boy named Ethan, Bailey survives run-ins with the child’s alcoholic father as well as a house fire. Then Ethan goes off to college and leaves Bailey to die a drawn-out death. “I was tired all the time. I didn’t feel like playing anymore,” Bailey thinks. “Everyone was so sad, but I was too tired to cheer them up.”
He’s reborn as a K9 officer and is shot and killed in the line of duty.
Next up, he lives with a college student, falls in love with her boyfriend’s dog, loses her — “One day, Roxie went to the vet, and she never came back.” — then quietly passes away at home.
In Life No. 5, he’s purchased by a couple of dirtballs who keep him chained outside — “I never went anywhere. I never played. It was like the days went on without me.” — before abandoning him.
The final toll
No dogs were harmed in “John Wick: Chapter Two.” People, though? That’s another story.
Again, by my count, Wick kills 105 people, including 19 during the song “John Wick Mode” — Golden Knights fans will recognize it as the team’s entrance music — and 40 in its immediate aftermath.
That adds up to 180 human lives ended — usually by point-blank gunshots to the face, often delivered after a sound beating — in retaliation for Daisy.
Poor Bailey died four times in that doggie snuff film, and — mild spoiler alert — he’s going to die several more times starting Friday in “A Dog’s Journey.” And for what?
At least Daisy’s death gave us that sweet hype song.
All Bailey’s many, many deaths will give you are years of therapy bills, a fun conversation with your kids about reincarnation and the chance to deflect numerous questions about what Grandma’s going to be when she comes back from the dead.
Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence @reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.