Monday, June 10, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

Directed by Chad Stahelski.
2019. Rated R, 131 minutes.
Cast:
Keanu Reeves
Ian McShane
Laurence Fishburne
Halle Berry
Anjelica Huston
Mark Dacascos
Asia Kate Dillon
Lance Reddick
Saïd Taghmaoui
Randall Duk Kim

We pick things up within an hour of the conclusion of John Wick: Chapter 2. Because of his actions in that film, John Wick (Reeves) finds himself not only excommunicated from the omnipotent criminal organization known as The High Table, but with a fourteen million dollar bounty on his head. Needless to say, every assassin with a screen credit is out to collect. John simultaneously trying to use and avoid fists, feet, guns, knives, and all other manner of lethal weaponry ensues.

Make no mistake, the plot is wafer-thin. It only functions as an excuse to have dozens (hundreds?) of random would be killers show up on screen and instantly try to murder our hero. The only thing we need to know about them is that they are a physical threat to John Wick. This is pretty easily done by a quick demonstration of their skill, their size, or sheer numbers. What happens after almost all of these guys pop up is some of the best fight choreography you'll ever see. Aside from the typical things I've already mentioned, they include motorcycles, horses, and now-famously, library books. Like in the first two movies in the series, much of what happens is jaw-dropping. The high point is a mid-film sequence featuring Halle Berry's character Sofia and her pet German Shepherds.

I've heard from others that there's so much action it becomes tiresome. I disagree. It's that two huge sequences in the third act don't pack quite the punch of everything else. One is a lengthy, but repetitive battle with heavily armored bad guys. The other is the film's final fight. This last fight is the only place where the choreography isn't quite up to snuff. It's artificially elongated because two ruthless killers who never miss an opening keep passing up opportunities to kill one another. It's an anti-climactic battle not worthy of its combatants. Other than these two scenes, the rest is breath-taking.


With all the focus on action you'd think there was no character development. While there's not a ton of it, what is there is surprisingly effective. It's not done by giving people compelling arcs, though you could argue that Ian McShane's Winston has one. Instead, characters are introduced and relay their backstories to the audience. The writing, and especially the acting, makes this tactic work. Anjelica Huston as The Director controls the screen in her brief time on it. She is as magnificent as ever. McShane is similarly excellent. Laurence Fishburne and Mark Dacascos both have fun turns, as well. Yet, I'm about to say something I thought I never would in connection to these wonderful performers. Halle Berry outshines them all. I'm on record as saying she's only so-so as an actress. She has been great on occasion, but not so much most of the time. In a short amount of time in this film she conjures so much genuine emotion we really feel her strained connection to John. Huston does the same. However, Berry's performance has something not required of Huston, a physical element. That alone isn't enough to make Berry's work amazing. What does it is that she handles it as well as she does the emotional stuff. This is a far cry from the less than thrilling work she did in Catwoman and the X-Men movies. Here, she's athletic, fluid, and fits right into the John Wick universe.

Of course, Keanu Reeves is at the center of this universe. As I am with Berry, I'm one of those who believes Reeves isn't among the strongest actors. However, I recognize that he excels in a certain type of role. When asked to play the talented guy, confused by an ever-unfolding situation, and tasked with a mission, he is squarely in his element. John Wick is a role tailor-made for him, and he plays it to the hilt. Unburdened of having to emote or show growth, John is essentially the same through all three movies, Reeves is free to just be THAT guy. He tries to figure things out as he goes along and kicks lots of ass in the process. His physicality is beyond reproach and he pulls off he bits of humor sprinkled throughout. What he ultimately achieves is giving us a character we want to continue watching regardless of his development, or lack thereof.

The film around John Wick is more than happy to make sure we'll get more of him for the foreseeable future. It's all an elaborate set-up for the next chapter of this saga. We don't mind because we've had a blast watching it happen. The manic brutality and relentless pace keep us engaged. The colorful characters intrigue us enough to distract us from paying too much attention to a story which only exists to move us from one action scene to the next. We finish the film exhilarated and anxious to see what could possibly be next.


My Quick and Dirty reviews of
and

20 comments:

  1. This is one of several films right now that I want to see as I enjoyed the series and I'm glad Keanu is getting his due as an actor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do yourself a favor and check it out sooner rather than later.

      Delete
  2. I didnt like Halle as much as you here but she was good! I was so happy they gave McShane more to do than in previous films

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Halle killed it. So did McShane. I'm also glad he has more to do.

      Delete
  3. I had no idea all these people were in this film. Halle Berry was good in Monsters Ball and In the under-rated Bulworth. She was horrible in Catwoman and she didn't do much for the X-Men. I hope the German Shepherds don't die needlessly like the little beagle pup did in the first movie. I am still horrified by that scene and can't watch the movie until after that scene is done. a 100 people could blow up but kill one animal and I am horrified even though the animal is aok..I just can't take it when i see it on screen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The cast is loaded. As for the dogs...I think you'll be pleased.

      Delete
  4. I totally agree with you about all the action, it never becomes tiresome, it's just the final fight isn't the best one in the movie. Really glad you enjoyed it :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! If that last fight was better the movie would've been perfect.

      Delete
  5. I’m one of those who complained about it becoming tiresome, are I 😅 anyways, I agree with you on the excellent choreographies and that Keanu Reeves is not a great actor (he’s unwatchable in his earlier roles) but he’s so good at playing badasses such as John. Nice review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A character like John Wick is right in his wheelhouse and it shows. Thanks!

      Delete
  6. I haven't yet seen Chapter 3, happy you enjoyed it. I like the old school action of the series. The quality of these John Wick movies doesn't look like waning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is not waning at all. This installment is just as fun as the previous two.

      Delete