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Review: John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

Warning: Spoilers for “Chapter 2”, but not “Chapter 3”

Written by Derek Kolstad, Chris Collins, Marc Abrams, and Shay Hatten and directed by Chad Stahelski “John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum” is the third entry in the John Wick series which finds the titular Wick (Keanu Reeves) right where we left him at the end of the last film; which is to say, running for his life with his dog at his side. For those needing a refresher, the second film established the world only hinted at in the first film, wherein there are rules for the initiated- and those rules are taken with a deadly seriousness. The first rule, is that you may not conduct “business” on continental grounds. The Continental, being the internationally recognized hotel for assassins. The second rule is that once bound to a marker, you must oblige the bearer of any request they make. Markers are circular discs that open to two halves, one side is red with the blood of the needing, and the other is only imprinted with the blood of the subservient once the request has been completed. Once you ask someone for help with a marker, and they accept, you must know that you will have to repay them eventually. “Chapter 2” establishes the severity of not adhering to the will of a bearer with a marker binding you to them. Wick is forced into assisting a bearer in “Chapter 2” and seeks retribution once the task is completed- but kills the bearer on continental grounds and thus labeled Excommunicado with a heavy bounty placed on his head, though the Continental’s manager Winston (Ian McShane) gives Wick a one hour grace period before the contract is open to all known assassins.

You can’t see the dog from the last film here, but trust me, he’s there.

With a $14 Million price tag on his head, Wick scrambles to make it out of the city, but also by getting his dog to the continental where he knows they will take care of him. The first twenty minutes of this film have some of the most inventive and rollicking great action sequences since “The Raid: Redemption” took the action genre by storm eight years ago. Speaking of that film, there are a handful of actors that make the jump to this series for a few particularly formidable foes that Wick must tango with. In fact, one of the best aspects of this film, aside from the crazy-violent and gut-wrenching action scenes, are the multitude of cameos from a variety of sources. The first fight in the film is between Wick and “Ernest”, the 7 ft 3 in tall assassin played by Serbian NBA player Boban Marjanovic, in the New York Public Library. It’s an excellent fight to kick the movie off, it may have been a little short, but wow- I didn’t know you could do THAT to someone with a book! We also get cameos from Jerome Flynn (famously played Bronn in Game of Thrones) and Jason Mantzoukas (He played Rafi from “The League”) as one of the many homeless citizens in league [ba dum tss- I’ll see myself out] with The Bowery King once again played magnanimously by Laurence Fishburne. Of course I’d be negligent in my reviewing duties if I forgot to mention Tiger Hu Chen. Not only has he previously starred as the lead in the only film that Keanu’s directed himself in “Man of Tai Chi” (check it out, it’s fun!) but he also has the goriest death in this film, in my humble opinion.

As with the previous two films, the action in this series is increasingly inventive. If you’ve ever read or seen an interview with the director, Chad Stahelski, you’ll see that he has a deep love of the action genre and cinema as a whole. In both “Chapter 2” and this film the opening scenes pay respect to Buster Keaton in homage to his legendary stunt work in the 1920’s, by playing his work projected on the side of a building and on one of the many large screens in Times Square. Stahelski has thrown in a multitude of nods and winks to cinema’s past and many eagle-eyed, and knowledgeable, fans will catch them. A particularly fun one is when Wick breaks into an old antique gun shop and has to modify two guns into one quickly enough to get one shot off as his pursuers break the door down. The director himself has stated that that shot was a direct callback to “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” with Eli Wallach, putting a pistol together in the gun shop.

While the plot in films like these isn’t always the primary concern, this series knocks that notion off it’s feet by continually expanding on the lore and mythology behind the assassin’s organization by examining how it works, it’s many hidden layers, and who controls whom. I don’t want to get into too many spoilers since the film’s still in its opening week, but admittedly, this one does a great job at giving us morsels of information, like John Wick’s real name for example, and some understanding of where he came from and how he was molded into The Baba Yaga.

This is another excellent entry in the franchise and personally I had a great time with it! The action was superb, satisfying, and mystifying! The cast was well rounded and precise given the runtime, no one felt wasted! However the very best news that this film could give, was that there’s even more Baba Yaga to come! The fourth film has already been greenlit and given a May 2021 release date according to several movie news outlets, and nothing could have made this action fan happier to hear!

Final Score: 7 cuts!

*Here’s a fun interview with the director on the stunt work in the film (though it does contain spoilers!):

https://www.polygon.com/entertainment/2019/5/18/18627988/john-wick-3-fight-scenes-how-they-did-horse-dog-shootout-continental-breakdown

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Review: John Wick Chapter 2

Written by Derek Kolstad and directed by Chad Stahelski “John Wick Chapter 2” eloquently serves up a solid sequel that doubles down on the intense creative violence that worked so well in the first film. Opening shortly after the end of the first film John Wick (Keanu Reeves) hunts down his car held by the remnants of the villains from that film in an exquisitely violent fashion. After which he returns home to his pit bull pup as he tries to resume his grieving process, however he gets little time to mope about as he is quickly greeted by Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), an old acquaintance from John’s past looking to make good on blood oath.

While John Wick’s motivation in this film are slightly less singular than the first, it’s a great excuse to explore the world of his past that was hinted and teased at throughout the first film. John goes international this time around as he’s been roped back into the guild of assassins that he now loathes. Even in Italy John Wick’s name carries weight as he is repeatedly recognized, and feared, on sight. As he should be, for it isn’t long before we witness him murder countless rival hit-men and a variety of gun toting henchmen. Speaking of rivals, the standout in this film is none other than real world hip-hop artist Common performing as Cassian, a skilled killer nearing John Wick’s abilities. His fight scenes with Wick are relentless and white knuckled forcing Wick to flex his fighting ability beyond his trigger finger and signature grappling take-downs. One scene playfully threads the guild’s hiding in plain sight nature when both are equipped with pistols bearing silencers as they casually shoot at each other through a crowded metro station without anyone taking notice. That sense of heightened reality in this neon soaked murderfest is truthfully the hook of the film. Intense and precise gunplay within a community that prides itself on a system of rules and civility.

In fact, that is one aspect that I find quite endearing here. In the world of the continental’s guild of assassins there are rules that no man (or woman for that matter) dare break. When Cassian and Wick crash through a window into a hallway of the continental they are quickly reaffirmed of the rules and head to the bar to share a drink, like the civilized folk they pretend to be. This sequel is a more confident story after the successes of the first film, thus we get more of what worked there, and it never comes off as lazy or uninspired. What we get is an expanded version of the first movie, with an excellent set-up for a third chapter in the series, and I for one am positively pleased to know that we’ll be getting more of Keanu Reeves’ latest character.

Final Score: No dead dogs, but dozens and dozens of corpses