Thursday, May 23, 2019

Movie Review: John Wick Chapter 3 - Parabellum

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum **** / *****
Directed by: Chad Stahelski.
Written by:  Derek Kolstad and Shay Hatten and Chris Collins & Marc Abrams based on characters created by Kolstad.
Starring: Keanu Reeves (John Wick), Halle Berry (Sofia), Ian McShane (Winston), Laurence Fishburne (Bowery King), Mark Dacascos (Zero), Asia Kate Dillon (The Adjudicator), Lance Reddick (Charon), Tobias Segal (Earl), Anjelica Huston (The Director), Saïd Taghmaoui (The Elder), Jerome Flynn (Berrada), Randall Duk Kim (Doctor), Margaret Daly (Operator), Robin Lord Taylor (Administrator), Susan Blommaert (Librarian), Jason Mantzoukas (Tick Tock Man).
We are lucky if we get one action movie a year that makes your jaw drop at just what is being put onscreen in terms of the action. The last film like that was Mission Impossible – Fallout, and before that you have Mad Max Fury Road. While John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum – isn’t quite up to those standards, it is the type of action film that shows you a bunch of stuff you have never quite seen before, and should be treated as a benchmark for future action directors – who need to watch the film to see what audiences can rightly expect from action movies, and adjust their ambitions accordingly. It is probably a little too long at 130 minutes, and there is little bit of a sense of diminishing returns at some point – the best action sequences are in the first act of the film, and while the action sequences near the finale are better than 95% of action sequences we see elsewhere, you do kind of wish they would have arrived sooner. Still, this is as good as mainstream action movies can possibly get in 2019 – and should be celebrated accordingly.
The action picks up literally at the end of John Wick Chapter 2 – where he had killed his enemy in the New York Continental Hotel, which is supposed to be a sanctuary for criminals, and no business is to be conducted there. This means that John Wick is now Ex Communicado – with a $14 million bounty on his head, running through the streets of New York with henchmen of all stripes out to get him. This opening sequence is the best in the movie – with one jaw dropping action sequence after another – one in a library, using of course, library books as weapons, one in a store, with an aisle of glass cases filled with knives and axes, all of which get broken, and the weapons used, and then an extended sequence involving a horse – first as a weapon, and then a chase sequence. Dozens are killed by John Wick in this sequence – and its glorious to behold. Keanu Reeves is in his element here, and does a great job in these scenes – which are expertly crafted by director Chad Stahelski, who has cleared watched the best of John Woo, and decided to try and top him.
Once the story elements of the movie take over for a while, the movie does slow down. There is a trip to Casablanca, and a walk through the desert, etc. At home in New York, an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) from the High Table isn’t happy with Winston (Ian McShane) who gave Wick an hour head start before placing the bounty on him, or the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) who helped Wick, knowing what he was going to do. There must be punishment.
Let’s be honest, all the high table stuff in the John Wick movies is ridiculous. You know, I know it, the movie knows it – and for the most part embraces the inherent goofiness of it all. That’s the correct way to handle things, and the cast knows it, and leans into the ridiculousness – no one more so than Ian McShane, who is having the time of his life as Winston. It would be even better had there been less of it all – the better to get back to the action sequences, which keep coming fast and furious – and are all wonderful – a fight sequence featuring Halle Berry and her two killer dogs in a mid-movie highlight to be sure, even if objectively it goes on too long, you don’t much care.
The movie, of course, ends in an orgy of violence – all of which is handled very well, even if I could probably do without the heavily armored men with machine guns, and just get to Keanu fighting the movies big bad Zero (played by Iron Chef America’s chairman Mark Dacascos and his goons. Those fights, in the one of the increasingly strange, over designed (brilliantly) in the rooms of the Continental are awe-inspiring, in the way that seeing Keanu guns down a lot of people bathed in green light just wasn’t (again, it’s better than almost any other scene of its sort in recent memory – it’s perhaps just a little much given everything else in the movie). And, of course, it sets itself for yet another John Wick sequel. By the fourth entry, most franchises are starting to feel strained and silly – that should be especially true of a series that started with a revenge tour kicked off by a dog murder – but here, John Wick still feels like it has more room to grow. Each film in the series has been better than the last. That’s rare for an action series – and I cannot wait to see what is next.

No comments:

Post a Comment