There are a couple of ways that this can be taken and some folks tend to get serious about it and start breaking down the legend of Baba Yaga and getting a bit huffy, while others simply let the mention of Baba Yaga go at face value when the name is being used in the same conversation as John Wick thanks to the symbolism of it. But if one takes it literally and does take the conversation to mean that John Wick is being called Baba Yaga, it makes little sense. If anyone knows anything about Russian folklore, and it’s easy to think that not a lot of people in America do since it requires at least a little reading since learning more than one can learn through Hellboy or other pop culture references is a wise thing to do, then they’ll know that Baba Yaga is a female witch. Granted, she’s either seen to be terrifying and bloodthirsty in her ways, or she’s seen to be benevolent, but the point is that she’s powerful and relentless when she has a goal in mind, and if one is speaking of her dark side then the terror she’s been used to inspire fear in the hearts of others, mostly children, is such that some kids actually used to fear that Baba Yaga would come and take them away if they were naughty. Others have grown up with this tale and have been either scared to death or entertained by the tale of Baba Yaga, but hearing the name in John Wick was likely something of a surprise since hearing anyone compared to Baba Yaga was bound to be a little confusing to those that knew of the character.
As I said, some don’t really care for the comparison since Baba Yaga is female, where John is male, and the two just don’t mix when making comparisons. Where it does make sense is that Baba Yaga is known in literature for being someone that is not good or evil, but something in between, a witch that can be kind or be horribly cruel and can also be vengeful. This definitely describes John since from what we learn about him in the first movie he has the kind of drive that causes him to excel in ways that others simply can’t match, even if in the first movie we see him captured at one point. The comparison between John and Baba Yaga isn’t literal obviously since there’s no way to do this and be serious about it, but the drive, the motivation, and the utter lack of civility when he’s going about his business is what was being mentioned, not his likeness to an old crone that lives in a house that is propped up by two giant bird legs. John isn’t the boogeyman anyway, he’s the guy that is sent to kill the boogeyman, as was stated in the movie.
That alone should be enough to realize that calling John by the name of Baba Yaga isn’t meant to state that he’s the boogeyman, but is instead the person that the boogeyman is wise to be afraid of considering his reputation. Labeling him as “Baba Yaga killer” or exterminator or anything else would sound silly since those that have grown up with the knowledge of Baba Yaga might take the meaning while others might need to have it explained to them. Adding this into the script was a mistake in the eyes of many people since they happen to believe that too many audience members would look at this as meaning that John IS Baba Yaga in a sense, or is being compared to the old crone in a very literal sense, which is not the case. The choice of words might be kind of odd and hard to take, but the meaning behind them is that John is a person to fear since he has the type of vision and focus when on a job to make it appear that he’s tougher and deadlier than any mortal has a right to be. The truth of it is that John is exceptionally gifted and is able to take out targets that might elude others and can do so with ease. But he’s also driven to the point that it becomes scary, and it’s easy to think of him as a being that all other beings would know to fear, that even the boogeyman wouldn’t dare mess with since he’s simply that dangerous. That’s the reason John and Baba Yaga are mentioned in the same conversation since they’re both dangerous and very vengeful creatures that don’t stop when they have a goal in mind.
If that’s not enough for some folks then it might be necessary to read about Baba Yaga in order to discover just why anyone would have thought to add the name to the John Wick script, they might be kind of surprised.