JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3-PARABELLUM
(director: Chad Stahelski; screenwriters: Shay Hatten/Derek Kolstad/Marc Abrams/Chis Collins; cinematographer: Dan Laustsen; editor: Evan Schiff; music: Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard; cast: Keanu Reeves (John Wick), Ian McShane (Winston), Lance Reddick (Charon), Laurence Fishburne (Bowery King), Mark Dacascos (Zero), Asia Kate Dillon (The Adjudicator), Halle Berry (Sofia), Saïd Taghmaoui (The Elder), Jerome Flynn (Berrada), Jason Mantzoukas (Tick Tock Man), Tobias Segal (Earl), Boban Marjanovic (Ernest), Anjelica Huston (The Director), Cecep Arif Rahman (sous chef), Yayan Ruhian (sous chef); Runtime: 131; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee; Lionsgate; 2019)
“It should have little appeal to viewers who want a film to make at least some sense and not be ultra-violent.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Martial-arts expert/stunt coordinator, director Chad Stahelski (“John Wick”), and a team of screenwriters, Shay Hatten, Derek Kolstad (franchise creator), Marc Abrams, Chis Collins, come up with the script for this time killer, nonsensical, action-fueled, escapist film, with sparse dialect, which is the franchise’s third installment of the money-making film. It defies logic and character development, as the highly stylized glossy film targets an audience of action film addicts. It should have little appeal to viewers who want a film to make at least some sense and not be ultra-violent.
The parabellum from the title translates from the Latin as preparing for war. It’s motto is “If you want peace, prepare for war.”
It begins at the point Chapter 2 ended. The out of retirement legendary super hit man John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is running around a rainy midtown Manhattan like a lunatic after learning he has less than an hour from being made “excommunicado” by the High Table, a top-secret, international assassin syndicate he serves, because he foolishly broke their rule by killing an enemy on the safe haven premises of the Continental Hotel, a glass-structured hotel in NYC where the High Table allows the imperious Winston (Ian McShane) to run for them the hotel under the conditions he only serves them. Before going on the run, Wick delivers his pet dog to the Continental, where he’s taken care of by the trusty concierge Charon (Lance Reddick) and his manager friend Winston, who broke the High Table rules by helping Wick flee.
A dispatch office run by tattooed, bespectacled women, in short-sleeved dresses, sends out texts to all the killers when a bounty goes out on Wick’s head.
The indestructible warrior Wick, still mourning his beloved wife’s death, is about to have a $14 million contract on his head, with possibly every professional killer in New York after him. The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) warns those who help him that they will pay for their disobedience to the High Table, as she confronts the guilty parties with their punishment and sends out the secret organization’s army of hit men to get Wick.
With an hour left to prevent his being made “excommunicado,” Wick must fight off a giant Russian bounty hunter trying to stab him to death in the reading room of the New York Public Library, where our man locates a book of Russian fairy tales that has a picture of his wife, a Russian Orthodox cross and a valued marker. After the library fight Wick gets patched up for his shoulder stab wound by a frightened underworld doctor and then finds more action from a gang of assassins in an antiques store and then more action at the Grand Central Terminal, and finally with a bunch of assassins after him he comes out of a stable riding a horse under the Brooklyn El train to ride to safety.
At the Tartovsky Theatre, Wick meets his fellow tribal Russian director (Anjelica Huston), who trains ballerinas to be assassins. She takes his marker and reluctantly grants him his wish for safe passage to Casablanca. There he confronts the femme fatale colleague, Sofia (Halle Barre), and her two snarling attack dogs, as she reluctantly returns a favor he once did for her (saving her daughter) and helps him meet her ruthless hotel boss, Berrada (Jerome Flynn), a powerful member of the High Table. After a sword fight with Berrada’s minions, with adobe-colored mansions in the background, the unscathed Wick searches the Sahara desert for the Moroccan called The Elder (Saïd Taghmaoui), the elusive leader of the High Table. When he meets him, he seeks guidance from him on how to deal with his precarious situation. He’s told he could settle things by giving him his ring finger and returning to NYC to kill Winston. In the Big Apple, Wick has a confrontation with The Adjudicator, who punishes Wick’s ally the bird-loving Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) for helping him escape. And, wouldn’t you know it, Wick then has a knife fight with a street-stall sushi-chef/ninja named Zero (Mark Dacasos) and his two assassin sous-chefs (Cecep Arif Rahman and Yayan Ruhian), enlisted to kill Wick by the Adjudicator.
It reaches the height of absurdity with Wick taking on the Adjudicator’s hit men in a showdown battle for survival at the Continental Hotel.
The soulless, exhausting and tedious film is at least well photographed and well choreographed. It’s filled with plenty of mayhem, martial-art fights and cartoonish violence with guns and knives. If there’s any message to this spiffy silliness, it comes with the debauched Anjelica Huston character saying that “Art is a pain and life is suffering.”
With its cliffhanger ending, the franchise gives hints of another Wick to come. I guess, this should be reason for some barbarians to rejoice.
REVIEWED ON 1/16/2020 GRADE: C https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/