Saturday, May 18, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

I am generally opposed to cliffhangers - I like endings and self-contained stories, occasionally joking that serialization is what lazy writers do to tell one story with the resources that their more productive brethren tell ten. That said, John Wick: Chapter 2 had a genuinely great one, good enough to remember just where it left off a couple years later despite the fact that there are a lot of unfinished storylines bouncing around in my head. For instance, I saw the trailer for It: Chapter 2 before this, and I've just got not memory of where that left off.

Aside from that, I found myself wondering a bit how much the John Wick films being what they are springs from Keanu doing The Matrix. He never did really elaborate action before those - well, maybe Point Break was more intense martial arts than things like Chain Reaction and Johnny Mnemonic; I haven't seen it - but he kind of gave himself to Yuen Woo-Ping and made himself into a guy who could sell that stuff.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

* * * (out of four)
Seen 16 May 2019 in AMC Boston Common #2 (first-run, Imax)

If you've enjoyed the first two John Wick movies, you'll almost certainly enjoy the third - this series still brings the stylish, astonishingly-staged violence better than most anybody else has since the last time John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat got together. It's definitely starting to get a little stretched, though, like the makers are a bit too aware of the franchise's status as an unlikely hit and developing a tendency to wink at themselves. Parabellum still plays its world of assassins just seriously enough to work as both intriguing and an excuse to enjoy the mayhem, but it's right on the edge of implosion, and may not be able to pull it off much longer.

The new entry picks up right where the last left off, with former assassin Wick (Keanu Reeves) on the run with a $14 million price on his head after killing someone in the lobby of The Continental Hotel in New York City, designated neutral ground by the international organization that oversees these freelancers, The High Table. He makes his way to Casablanca to find the head of the organization and plead his case, starting by calling in a favor with the manager of the local Continental location, Sofia (Halle Berry). Helping John could probably get her the same sort of scrutiny as his friends in New York - hotel manager Winston (Ian McShane) gave him a head start and a former mentor (Anjelica Huston) smuggled him out and as such have an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) and her enforcer Zero (Mark Dacascos) looking for bloody penance - but she owes him a favor and, besides, she's also a dog person.

The filmmakers know why the audience is there and get right at it; the first act stacks one terrific melee on top of another as Wick races through New York, taking no chances that the audience might feel like they squandered the cliffhanger where the last movie finished. The audience knows what director and former stunt performer Chad Stahelski brings to a movie by now, keeping shots going as long as possible with just enough of a pause after a sudden killing shot for the audience to roar. He knows how to use space, where to put the camera and where to cut to make it not feel like a cheat, and has an excellent stunt & fight team lead by Jonathan Eusebio to build these scenes. Things slow down a bit after the opener, but there are two major bits of bloodletting to come, one featuring Halle Berry looking just as committed to doing this stuff well as Keanu and the other giving the viewer a chance or two to wonder why Mark Dacascos didn't become a bigger deal after Brotherhood of the Wolf. The climax is as elaborate and beautifully staged as ever, if not quite so surprisingly stunning as the first couple of films. We know it's possible now.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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