The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic:
on JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM (2019, 130 minutes, R)
The Quick of It -
It amazes me how Keanu Reeves gets these projects that get so much traction when critics bashed his earlier work. He continually proves them wrong at the box office, even when he still plays that niche role he has created for himself.
To put this into a sports analogy, imagine a team that has a player that excels in a particular skill. If a quarterback is an outstanding passer, you keep him safe and slinging the ball. If you have a point guard who can pass and move the basketball against any team, you let them direct traffic. The core idea is to put people in situations so they can succeed. Mr. Reeves has a tenacious spirit, putting his heart into a role. Even if you only see it on the screen in the most subtlest of ways, it is there. I cannot imagine the tremendous number of hours he accrued off-screen for this role to make it feel seamless and real. Well, there may have been a few early-bird blocks, but we can forgive him when half the film is intense action sequences.
Keanu Reeves may have a stoic presence, not exhibiting Hollywood flair or have weeping eyes that deem one Oscar worthy. But, he has enough acting chops to grab your attention and let you never stray from his journey. In this stage of his career, the John Wick series is far above the action heroes of old, forging a new path into violence and creativity. There have been other films that have progressed the filming-style of action movies, like the Bourne series, that is true. For John Wick, this collection of films has contributed to a fading sub-genre. Superhero films have overshadowed the yearly lineup for action, pushing the secondary titles deeper into a low-level money grab for the scraps.
CHAPTER 3 continues where 2 left us. Wick is on the clock as his excommunication by the High Table from the assassin’s guild becomes official. He must use all his chits to get help, calling in all favors, to survive long enough to find a way out of the $14 million-dollar price tag on his head. What comes next? Oh… we know. And that is the beauty of it.
Again, at the helm is director Chad Stahelski. What makes him so special with his limited catalog of movies as a director? His catalog of movies he worked on, being on the stunt and fight-choreography side. His command and attention to detail while taking the time to prime the moments before visually inundating you with ferocity, pulling you down to a calming place, and then suffering through each impact of bullet and fist.
They incorporate a new team-up, Halle Berry as bad-ass Sofia. She gives something to the story but did leave me a little jolted by the insertion. (Yeah, had to incorporate that word. Extra points.) Like many of the introductions, I guess each is an immediate introduction without much transition, but I felt a little cheated with her. Her story was deeper than most, probably too deep for what time she was given.
While the returning cast is top-notch star power, we have the opportunity to see the hidden world of international assassins expand. Add an Adjudicator for the High Table, Asia Kate Dillon (of ‘Billions’ and “Orange is the New Black), who you think doesn’t blink the whole time. She stares down everyone, regardless of their killing natures. Also, the sushi chef/ninja Zero, played by Mark Dacascos, from my favorite French film BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF, acts so flippantly, you want to see what he does next.
The end result is not just an action film but a clinic on mood and setting. Light and the use of cool colors is phenomenal. The staging of sequences and incorporating animals into the melees is beyond anything you will expect or wish for. Make the time to see this on the large screen, worth every penny. There are more Wicks to come.