July 22, 2019

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Running out of ammo

John Wick's high-energy violence starting to ebb in Chapter Three

Keanu Reeves knows better than most that a screen trilogy can take a downward arc, no matter how deeply impressive the first film was out of the gate.

It may be a saving grace his John Wick movies aren’t as thematically high-faluting as the last two chapters of the Matrix trilogy. Perhaps that is why they don’t fall so hard under their own weight.

Even so, John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum sees the franchise running out of steam as definitively as the exhausted, wounded Wick himself.

Starting where Part 2 left off, reactivated assassin Wick finds himself “excommunicated” from the secret assassin’s league after killing a member of its ruling “High Table” on the hallowed, no-kill grounds of the swank Continental Hotel run by the martini-dry proprietor Winston (Ian McShane).

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Keanu Reeves knows better than most that a screen trilogy can take a downward arc, no matter how deeply impressive the first film was out of the gate.

MOVIE REVIEW

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
Starring Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane and Halle Berry
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne.
18A
131 minutes
★★★

OTHER VOICES

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
Starring Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane and Halle Berry
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne.
18A
131 minutes
★★★

OTHER VOICES

I don’t mean to give the impression that John Wick 3 is anything grander than a gorgeously choreographed, gratuitously violent action movie. But as gorgeously choreographed, gratuitously violent action movies go, it’s high art.

— Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

Does John Wick: Chapter Three — Parabellum break the formula? It most certainly does not. Director Chad Stahelski wouldn’t dare. But you almost wish he would.

— Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service

Wick 3 is jaw-droppingly violent, hilarious and surprising. It’s also a hell-of-a lesson in cool.

— Karen Krizanovich, The List

It’s a hard-R live action cartoon, and it is superb, wall-to-wall action entertainment.

— Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

Whatever it lacks in narrative intelligence it makes up abundantly in visual moxie, and in a medium that is first and foremost visual, that’s what makes something great.

— Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

It may be a saving grace his John Wick movies aren’t as thematically high-faluting as the last two chapters of the Matrix trilogy. Perhaps that is why they don’t fall so hard under their own weight.

Even so, John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum sees the franchise running out of steam as definitively as the exhausted, wounded Wick himself.

Starting where Part 2 left off, reactivated assassin Wick finds himself "excommunicated" from the secret assassin’s league after killing a member of its ruling "High Table" on the hallowed, no-kill grounds of the swank Continental Hotel run by the martini-dry proprietor Winston (Ian McShane).

With a grace period of one hour, Wick kills many hoodlums to get to Russian crime queen The Director (Anjelica Huston) who reluctantly gives Wick passage to Casablanca, where he meets mysterious fellow assassin Sofia (Halle Berry). Sofia owes Wick a certain debt.

If you think this may lead to some kind of Bogart-and-Bergman romance and intrigue, you haven’t been paying attention to the John Wick movies. This movie’s equivalent of a love scene sees Wick and Sofia fighting and shooting henchpersons by the vanful with such beautifully choreographed physical harmony, you expect to hear some porny thwacka-wacka music in the background.

Meanwhile, stateside, a High Table representative called The Adjudicator (an impressively chilly Asia Kate Dillon) is visiting anyone who may have given comfort and aid to Wick prior to his excommunication to exact some measure of High Table retribution. These individuals include the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and the unflappable Winston. The Adjudicator has formidable assistance in the person of a ninja-like killer called Zero (Mark Dacascos).

Lionsgate</p><p>Halle Berry portrays Sofia, a mysterious assassin who owes John Wick a debt.</p>

Lionsgate

Halle Berry portrays Sofia, a mysterious assassin who owes John Wick a debt.

The raison d’etre for the John Wick movies is, of course, the action sequences. Director Chad Stahelski, a former stuntman, delivers the goods, albeit in sequences that lack the ferocity of the first film. Wick and Sofia fight alongside Sofia’s two attack dogs, in what feels like canine retaliation for the puppy murder that started the John Wick franchise in the first place.

A climactic duel takes place in a glassy hall-of-mirrors-like set that may be a shout-out to the climax of the Bruce Lee movie Enter the Dragon. Except here, audiences may be able to relate too hard to the exhausted Wick. Some might even be tempted to throw in the towel, even if Wick won’t.

Niko Tavernise / Lionsgate</p><p>Every assassin in the world wants to kill John Wick in the third movie of the action franchise.</p></p>

Niko Tavernise / Lionsgate

Every assassin in the world wants to kill John Wick in the third movie of the action franchise.

But the stuff that gave the first two John Wick movies bonus value — the fascinating social sub-strata of assassins with their own moral code and their own currency — becomes less interesting the more we learn about it. Part of the reason for this is that the movie itself doesn’t seem to take this realm seriously. For example, Wick is beset a few times by killers who are also fans.

It’s the closest indication yet that the cut-throat world of John Wick is maybe just Hollywood in disguise.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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