Thunder Road Pictures/87Eleven Productions/Summit Entertainment
Directed by Chad Stahelski
Produced by Basil Iwanyk/Eric Lee
Screenplay by Derek Kolstad/Shay Hatten/Chris Collins/Marc Abrams
Story by Derek Kolstad
Music by Tyler Bates/Joel J. Richard
Cinematography by Dan Laustsen
Edited by Evan Schiff
There’re many things I like about the “John Wick” series but the one thing near the top of the list is that these are not cheap, disposable action movies that you forget about ten minutes after the end credits have run. These aren’t quickly made fare intended to be dumped in the DTV market. The “John Wick” movies are what I privately refer to as Action Cinema. They’re honest attempts to elevate the genre of Action Movies through superior storytelling, stunt work, fight choreography, acting and cinematography.
Add to all that the world building. Starting right from the first movie and continuing into the second, the “John Wick” movies have postulated that there is a secret world that impacts on the Punchclock World we all know and live in but we have no idea exists. It’s a world with its own code of ethics and rules. Rules that usually come with the penalty of death if they’re broken.
And that leads us right into an even deeper exploration of this secret world in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3-PARABELLUM which starts right after “John Wick 2” ended with our hero and his dog on the run. Having committed the ultimate, unpardonable sin of killing on the grounds of The Continental, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is cast out, censured and declared excommunicado by Winston (Ian McShane) Manager of The Continental with a $14 million contact on him to boot. In memory of their friendship, Winston gives John Wick an hour’s head start. While John and his faithful dog, Dog frantically rush around Manhattan seeking to escape, legions of assassins sharpen their knives and load their guns waiting for the hour to be up.
The path to John’s escape lies with him going back into his past as he must call in a favor from The Director (Angelica Huston) who runs what appears to be a ballerina academy and there are hints it is much more. She’s able to help John get to Casablanca, which is one of the movie’s several nods to classic films and it’s there he meets up with Sofia (Halle Berry) a formidable assassin in her own right. And I think it’s only fair to let you know that Halle Berry doesn’t have as big a role in the movie as you might think. But it’s a good one. She’s got a team of weaponized German Shepherds that act as her back up in a deliriously wild shootout.
And the shootouts in this movie are more exciting than the ones in “John Wick 2” where most of the time I felt as if I were watching a FPS video game. And the fight scenes have to be seen to be believed as I’m convinced they’re heavily influenced by Indonesian action movies. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie where the fight scenes have left me exhausted and there are three of them in this movie that fall under the category of How The Hell Did They Film That?
The stakes are upped considerably in this one by the introduction of some new characters. There’s Zero, a master assassin played by Mark Dacascos (who really should have had a much bigger career) who also adds a wicked sense of humor to the mayhem. In fact it surprised me how much humor is in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3-PARABELLUM considering the direness of the situation. But in the past the series has relied mostly on Keanu Reeves and his deadpan brand of humor to provide the chuckles and this time around, other characters get to be funny. Especially Laurence Fishburne’s The Bowery King who seems to me to be inspired by Orson Welles. The Adjudicator of The High Table (Asia Kate Dillon) who comes to New York to set the John Wick situation. If you’ve seen them as Taylor Mason on “Billons” and love what they do there then you’ll really get a kick out of seeing them play an entirely different role. One full of quiet menace. We also have Said Taghmaoui as The Elder, The One Who Sits Above The High Table. John goes on a quest in the desert outside of Casablanca to find The Elder as he (it?) is the only one who can get the contract lifted and give John his life back. And the introduction of The Elder also brings in a mystical element that will no doubt be explored in future movies as “John Wick 4” has already been confirmed and Keanu Reeves has said that as long as audiences keep on going to see them, he’ll keep on doing them.
And why shouldn’t he? Franchises such as “John Wick” “The Fast and the Furious” and “Mission: Impossible” have pretty much replaced James Bond movies. At least for me. They do what James Bond movies used to do and do it much better. The John Wick movies have succeeded because of not only their superior elements I named earlier but it’s busy creating its own mythology. One that audiences seem to be enjoying immensely. I know I am.