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Movie Review: "John Wick 3" Packs A Lot of Bang For Your Buck

Starring Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon,
Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston, Saïd Taghmaoui and Ian McShane
Sccrenplay by Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins and Marc Abrams

Directed by Chad Stahelski

Reviewed by Patrick & Paul Gibbs
Out of Four

The 2014 Keanu Reeves action thriller John Wick was based on a premise that sounded like something pitched by one of Billy Crystal's creative writing students in Throw Momma From The Train. But if you are familiar with the screenwriting terms of "saving the cat" and "killing the dog", making a darkly comic thriller that took the concept so literally had a strange, subversive brilliance to it, and a new cinematic legend was born.

John Wick is ultimately not about brilliant plotting or even characters, but about action (though Reeves and the creative team clearly have a strong attachment to the character, and he is complex enigma). The franchise has a very unique place in cinematic history for being the only one built out of a collaboration (20 years, to be precise) between an actor and his stunt double (director Chad Stahelski has been working with Reeves since doubling him on The Matrix), and in an age when the majority of all the action we see is computer generated, the only other property that has a claim to ctia kind of passion for live action spectacle is Mission: Impossible. In short, you don't go to a John Wick movie to see a great story, you go to see unapologetic violence and mayhem intricately choreographed and dialled up to eleven.

Winston sounds the signal that John Wich is officially "excommunicado".
(Images Courtesy Lionsgate Films)

In Parabellum, John Wick is now a marked man on the run in Manhattan. He is declared "excommunicado" by The High Table, which places a $14 million contract bounty on his head as a result of Wick's unauthorized killing of Santino D'Antonio on the grounds of the Continental Hotel, "consecrated grounds" where hit men and women meet and receive assignments, but where no hits are permitted under any circumstances. A safe haven for those in the trade - or at least it was - until John Wick broke the code. 

The Continental is visited by an Adjudicator (Kate Asia Dillon) a representative of The High Table, who comes to speak to the Manager, Winston (Ian McShane) due to his previously providing assistance to Wick. Both are ordered to relinquish their positions of authority within seven days or face consequences. Meanwhile, having survived the warehouse fight, Wick seeks The Director (Anjelica Huston), a figure from his past who also happens to be a member of the High Table, and Sofia (Halle Berry), a fellow assassin, both of whom owe John debts. 

(Images Courtesy Lionsgate Films)

Parabellum starts out with a bang, and if anything the first two big fight sequences are so creative and thrilling that they put the movie in danger of peaking too early. For a while, it feels like that's exactly what has happened, as the middle section (particularly when John travels to Morocco) starts to drag a bit. But if there's one thing we learned from M:I-2 (apart from the fact that John Woo may indeed be sexually attracted to doves and pigeons) it's that a good motorcycle chase can fix almost anything, and once we get there it's non stop fun till the credits roll.

John Wick may well be Keanu Reeves' best action role, because he brings such a sense of deep sadness to this larger than life and mysterious cartoon character that he becomes more interesting and more human than he has any right to be. There is no denying, however, that Keanu is starting to finally show his age a bit in this one, if not in terms of ability to keep up, than just in the fact that his face is starting to sag, and it requires as much suspension of disbelief that his beard and long main still remain jet black with no trace of gray as it does to go along with the more physics defying stunts. Keanu's still got game, though, and he certainly brings it to Parabellum.

By far the most enjoyable performance from a supporting cast member comes from Mark Decascos as Zero, a rival assassin and unabashed John Wick fan who is supposed to take him out. Decascos and Reeves could not be more entraining in their direct interplay if they tried to be, and Decascos is lucky enough to be handed one of the single funniest lines to come along in a movie in some time. Anjelica Huston adds a lot of presence in her campy role, and Halle Berry is more fun as a female counterpart to John Wick than she ever was as an attempted one to James Bond, even if she gets less screen time as such.

(Images Courtesy Lionsgate Films)

The movie is obviously extremely violent, and at times it gets a bit numbing (especially when we're watching overlong, sequences of Zero taking out other targets of the High Table, and we don't have the element of John fighting for his survival on to keep us invested in these hits). These movies are not for the squeamish, and if their wasn't a feeling of tongue in cheek parody to the harshest moments they would be just too much. It would be interesting to see how Stahelski would fare as an action director if he had to keep the body count to Jason Bourne levels, but something tells us it will be a while before we get a chance to find out.

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum is not exactly Avengers: Endgame, either in terms of broad appeal or as a culmination of the previous films. Not is it the best of the series. This is simply the latest chapter, but it's an entertaining one that should leave the core audience satisfied and eager for more.

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