New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

It’s Relentless. Countless bodies pile up as Keanu Reeves inhabits John Wick, once again, to battle those hunting him. Parabellum means “if you want peace, prepare for war.” It’s also a kind of German made gun. You now have the theme of this film and we think the best of the series. 

If you’ve watched or heard anything about John Wick, no warning is needed before you see this. Right at the beginning of this film, Wick is advised to “Do what you do best, John.” And he certainly does. This noir hero is soaked in blood, but he does this with a bit of a wink and tongue planted in cheek. 

Chad Stahelski, the former stuntman and martial arts officianado who has helmed all three John Wick films, stages exhilarating action and stunts. In this installment, he has elevated the style of choreography and shooting the mayhem to enhance it even more. 

If you’re looking for subtlety, this third John Wick episode kills that notion along with a giant assassin (Philadelphia 76’ers center Boban Marjanovic) in the opening minutes of this thrilling symphony of murder.

Stahelski has Reeves dancing a constant “ballet of death” that is as beautiful as it is brutal. The long scenes of hand-to-hand combat are so riveting we find ourselves overlooking the continuity flaws like broken glass that appears and disappears with each edit, often without breaking the skin or leaving a scratch. Oh there’s plenty of blood, but most of that is from blowing someone’s head off or driving a sword through him. 

The Director constantly finds new, inventive ways for Wick to dispatch his pursuers. There are eyes getting stabbed with knives, horses kicking off heads, sword battles and horrific crashes with bodies flying from speeding motorcycles plus all manner of death from guns that include elegant plumes of blood and brain that come so quickly you don’t have time to be revulsed and react before more of the same spews your way. There is so much murder and it happens so fast  that you’re left with admiration for the dance rather than what is happening to the dancers. You have to give credit for the extraordinarily creative ways to fend off Wick’s constant flow of enemies.  

Much of the credit for making this hell-scape so watchable goes to Cinematographer Dan Lausten (The Shape of Water) and editor Evan Schiff (Baby Driver). The fight scenes allow us to actually see the moves and follow the action. Editor Schiff resisted making too many quick cuts to try to build excitement. Instead he let the action flow so we can actually see and appreciate the amazing amount of well-though-out choreography. 

The story, what there is of it, centers on the arcane and inviolate rules of The High Table. Enforced by The Ajudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), she is one scary, pursed lip broad who is the enforcer, carrying out sentences imposed from above. Some of her intended victims include The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and the manager of The Continental, Winston (Ian McShane). McShane has that same dry, droll persona that makes him funny, and sinister at the same time. He’s one fun character to watch. His assistant at the Hotel, Charon (Lance Reddick) is an imposing figure you know is going to make his presence known later. 

Continuing from the end of the last film, Wick has been declared “excommunicado”  by The High Table, the shadowy, underworld assassin organization. A $14 million bounty has been put on his head because he violated the prime rule and killed a man in the Continental which is the exclusive hotel available only to members of The Table. Wick goes on a globe trotting quest to survive while trying to get back into the good graces of The High Table’s elusive elder.

On this journey, the team of writers led by Derek Kolstad and Shay Hatten, take us back to some of Wick’s roots. Kolstad’s wrote the original story on which the Wick character is based.  He stops to visit a weird dance and martial arts school orchestrated by The Director, a mysterious Eastern European woman (Anjelica Huston). Wick produces a coin, crucifix and beads which are some kind of “ticket” like a “Get out of jail free,” but not likely in this film.  She calls Wick “Jardani” as they speak in a Baltic tongue. This hint at his backstory is no clue at all. Perhaps more could be revealed in the next installment. In this school we see both female ballet dancing and male martial arts combat. Both are the perfect metaphor for the rest of this movie.

Once Wick leaves rainy New York, he’s off to Casablanca where the choreographed mayhem rises to new levels of beautiful, eye-popping and eye-gouging brutality. He teams up with Sofia (Halle Berry) who is just as lethal as Wick, perhaps even more when she dispatches her two German shepards who are well-trained to clamp their jaws on opponents’ crotches. Berry trained for 6 months with the dogs to build a bond that is evident in their performance. Berry looks fabulous and tough as nails. She’s no one you’d want to tangle with in an alley, especially if she’s with her dogs. 

John Wick; Chaper 3 – Parabellum is a fine addition to this trilogy and a good set-up for the next one, if Reeves (54) is up to another pounding. Even with a stunt double, he does plenty of them on his own. How will Keanu top this? As they tell him in the movie “Every action has consequences.” We’re looking forward to see him do even more damage next time. 

Summit Entertainment      131 Minutes         R

from Movies and Shakers

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