‘I’ ON CULTURE
John Wick is back, which means the death count wherever he is goes through the ceiling. In John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum the body count makes Game of Thrones look like a romantic comedy. But if you ignore the ridiculous fact that Wick can take an enormous amount of pain while killing dozens of top assassins without himself getting killed, it is a stylish sort-of fun. If you don’t care to see people getting killed in an enormous number of ways, you might not want to see this film.
The movie begins right after the end of the previous film. Wick has violated the rules of the esoteric group of top assassins called “The High Table” by killing the man who has been sending assassins after him. That would normally be alright, but he does it at the Hotel Continental, a place that is “consecrated” by the group, meaning no one may be killed there. This is a highly regulated world. Killing is natural, but rules must be followed. Once Wick kills the man, he is ordered by the manager Winston (Ian McShane) out, told he has one hour before being excommunicated.
As soon as the hour is over, it seems half of New York is out to kill Wick, thanks to a $14 million bounty. A group of Asians battle him in old warehouse, knives flashing and thrown. He is able to walk about; more than a half dozen of them are dead. He goes for help to some Belarusian Gypsies (I think), gets help because he’s owed a favor by the Director (Angela Huston), and gets to Casablanca.
There he meets Sofia (Halle Berry) and her two guard dogs. She also owes him and takes him to see her boss Berrada (Jerome Flynn, Bronn in Game of Thrones). At first amusing, it turns into a gun fight in which Wick and Sofia kill at will. At least 40 of them die, but Wick and Sofia make it out. Eventually, he meets the top boss and is given more assignments in penance.
That leads to watching the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) recruiting a sushi chef/assassin leader Zero (Mark Dacascos) to punish anyone who helped Wick. Zero and his sous-chefs do a lot of violence. Wick, of course, is the ultimate target. That leads to lots of stunts leading to deaths, battles with lots of broken glass and plenty of action. One of the key pieces of fun is that a number of the would-be assassins are fan boys of Wick. Zero keeps telling him, often while trying to kill him, that he and Wick are really alike and should really be buddies. Two of his gang, before attacking with knives, are so respectful I almost expected them to ask for his autograph. And then they all fought like crazy.
Almost everybody gets messed up in this film. Even imperturbable Charon (Lance Riddick) the suave desk clerk at the Continental picks up weapons and uses them really well. There is a remarkable contrast set up between the choreographed violence and the truly arcane world presented. In this universe, almost everyone is a possible hired assassin. Although there are scenes of fast wholesale death, particularly in Casablanca, many of the deaths are through wild hand-to-hand combat battles, although knives and swords are popular. At one point, Wick kills a seven-foot giant with a couple of library books. It is this unique style that keeps killings from getting boring.
The center of the film, Keanu Reaves’ Wick is stolid. He shows emotion so seldom that when he does, it is very powerful. The film is helped by great performances by those in lesser roles. McShane is charming and enigmatic as usual. Reddick adds a lot of spice to his performance. Laurence Fishburne chews up the scenery in his few short scenes. Dillon is stone-faced as required. Berry is, of course, beautiful, and proves she can handle violence well.
The violence is unceasing, but director Chad Stahelski keeps things moving, adding just enough change and bits of humor to keep the audience entertained. The killing begins within a few minutes and runs right to the end, with a setup for the next film.
If you liked the earlier Wick films, or like stylish violence, this one is for you. If not, Aladdin arrives next week.