Of Killer Dogs & Deadly Books: A Review of 'John Wick 3 '
When you’re on to the third installment of an uber-violent, hired assassin/hitman, neo-noir film franchise; your biggest issues will be how not to repeat yourself, and raise the stakes in such a manner that your audience will feel something fresh and exciting has been put on the screen for their escapist pleasure. And for at least 3/4 of their new film, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Director Chad Stahelski and lead star Keanu Reeves more than satisfy in giving us something that’s over the top, and has enough novelty to keep the hard action fans in us grinning from ear to ear.
In terms of universe-building, this franchise has been exceptional, gifting us with a New York that’s vaguely familiar, but different enough to be its own world. Dark and foreboding, filled with neon, a place where flip-phones and old school computers are still in use, and where an enormous high-end hotel for assassins, protected by the High Table and never bothered by the NYPD, can exist—this universe is once again on vivid display—with exceptional additions! And these include a New York Public Library where books are dangerous weapons, a den of thieves Morocco, and stunning desert vistas that would shame Lawrence of Arabia.
And we haven’t even mentioned the killer dogs in flak jackets, horses with deadly kicks, motorcycle chase scenes that are mind-boggling, and the easily punctured eyeball! Bushido blades, armor piercing shotguns, and hand-to-hand combat are just some of the choices of weapons in this installment, and they’re all employed as John Wick contends with being declared ex communicado, and a $14 million bounty is placed on his head—and that’s about as much of this movie’s plot line that one needs to know.
Most of the cast from 2 returns; and we await the scenes where Reeves and Laurence Fishburne (the Bowery King) share the screen, as that’s a shot in the arm for Matrix fans. Given relatively short screen time in this film is Halle Berry as Sofia, an assassin and close friend of Wick; but she makes the most of it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she and her samurai killer dogs are back for the 4th installment. Sofia and the two dogs are without a doubt, the most interesting additions to the cast, and we miss them as they fade out of this film.
Mark Dacascos as Zero, the main villain cuts an impressive trail of corpses and maimed victims as he goes on a vendetta against Wick. And Ian McShane, back as Winston, owner and manager of the aforementioned Continental Hotel, has the most interesting arc within this installment, and it augurs well for what Wick 4 can promise.
Unlike the mold of heroes that the likes of Steven Seagal, Liam Neeson, or Jason Statham would portray—glowering, towering, tight-lipped, and beady-eyed; part of the novelty of Wick and Keanu Reeves has been how there’s always been something inherently gentle and nonchalant about his attitude. His attachment to his dog being one barometer of his kindly mien. It’s made for a persona that’s unique; there’s always a degree of reluctance or distancing when forced into a fight or to kill someone. It’s like the moment it ends, he’s ready to kick back and just gambol with his canine friend. It’s this contrast to his personality and the violence he wreaks that’s made Wick such a compelling figure to follow.
There are big inconsistencies in the story-telling, incidents where Wick should be down for the count but miraculously survives and is up on his feet immediately; but when we’re having this much vicarious fun and enjoying the lurid violence, we don’t really care. I know I’m up for John Wick 4, and in the meantime, here’s 3 to savor and write home about!
Photos from Lionsgate