Director: Chad Stahelski
Release Date: May 17, 2019
In 1999 Lana and Lilly Wachowski changed movies forever with their groundbreaking sci-fi action film The Matrix. The film spawned two sequels and launched Keanu Reeves to peak stardom as the lead man Neo. Since the franchise came to a conclusion in 2003, Reeves hasn’t been able to find the same level of success. Starring in films that were considered failures both critically and financially (47 Ronin, Street Kings, and The Day the Earth Stood Still), it seemed as if the “one’s” best days were behind him.
After the box office flops, Reeves reunited with his former stuntman from the Matrix trilogy, Chad Stahelski, to make his directorial debut about a retired assassin named John Wick, who goes on a revenge-fueled killing spree after some assholes killed his dog and stole his car. Going with an unproven director with a seemingly simple plot appeared to be a risky move for Reeves. The combination of the director, washed up star, and shoot-em-up plot line from an independent studio screamed of a straight to DVD release with maybe a short run in theaters.
But Stahelski tapped into something all moviegoers love: guns, cars, blood, hand-to-hand combat and killing unnamed bad guys with “a fucking pencil.” His background as a stunt coordinator takes John Wick to a level that other action films are unable to successfully pull off. It’s the adrenaline of Fast and the Furious, brutal gun play of a Rambo and hand-to-hand combat of a Jet Lee film all rolled into one. If that’s not enough to pull you in, well, the motivation of the lead assassin is revenge, because someone killed his dog and stole his car. What do you love more than your dog and car? Watching an assassin unleash hell on 100-plus bad guys because they killed his puppy is as straightforward and satisfying of a story there is. All of this turned a $20 million budget into a nice $88 million worldwide, and launched an original action franchise.
The first John Wick laid the foundation for sequels while teasing a bigger world of an underground assassin network. Chapter 2 expanded on the mythology and world-building, giving just enough answers to satisfy our curiosity but leaving enough for later films to explore.
In Chapter 3 we’re given insight to our main character’s mysterious background. We see who trained him, where he came from and even his real name. The film dives deeper into the governing body of the global assassin network by introducing Asia Kate Dillon as “The Adjudicator,” the head investigator of John Wick’s escape from the New York Continental after breaking one of the two rules the ruthless killers must abide by: No blood spilled on Continental grounds. What separates this franchise from being a completely mindless two-hour killing fest is the mythology surrounding this world.
John Wick Chapter 3 picks up just minutes after Chapter 2 ends. Wick is given one hour to run before being declared “excommunicado,” sending every assassin in the world after him for a bounty of $14 million. While on the run Wick is forced to go to Casablanca to seek the help of an old friend. Taking the story international just opens up your curiosity even more as it shows us the scale of this secret world and the politics involved.
Each film has at least one other notable actor who takes the story to another level. In the original it’s Willem Dafoe and Chapter 2 has an interesting performance from Common. Chapter 3 is no exception, with Halle Berry playing a high ranking manager of another Continental Hotel who happens to be an old friend of Wick’s. Wick has a marker on her which we learned from Chapter 2, is a favor that can not be refused or it is punishable by death. The two are put in a situation that Wick often finds himself in, and must shoot their way out of a building filled with dudes trying to kill them. Berry’s training for the role is on full display for this 10 minute fight sequence as she and Reeves find creative ways to lay waste to a horde of underqualified henchmen. Oh, and she has two trained dogs that fight alongside her, making for some of the most violent killings we’ve seen in the franchise.
Her character is given a vague backstory that could set up potential prequels. After getting a glimpse of the tag-team duo in the dessert, I’m all in on a Berry/Reeves John Wick film.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is the most intense, violent turned-up-to-11, out-of-hand film in the franchise. The action pieces are clear, creative and stomach-turning at times. The audience gasps, grunts, and cheers as Wick fights multiple men at a time, ending their lives with household items. Stahelski is clearly a master of displaying violence and combat as there’s no one doing it better right now. He knows how to use Keanu Reeves’ strengths as an actor to the films’ advantage, displaying his impressive martial arts and marksmanship skills while on the edge of death at any given moment. Reeves isn’t given a lot to work with as far as dialogue goes, but to the small number of people who complain about us not getting a better look at the character’s personality: Do you want to watch Reeves act in a dramatic role or do you just want to give him a gun?