Sunday, May 19, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

John Wick was simple revenge story stylized with a flourish of memorable action scenes (and an absurd amount of killshots to the head). John Wick: Chapter 2 brought back Keanu Reeves as the notorious hitman featuring a more convoluted story that was designed to help expand John Wick's world. John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum returns, at least initially, to the clear focus of the original by offering a set-up of Wick declared excommunicado and on the run from the very organization he has worked for, with an ever-increasing price on his head, numerous assassins looking to cash in, and all the usual help and support once available now denied.

For the first-half of the film, Chapter 3 works quite well as our protagonist runs for his life and calls on the few remaining debts owed to him. However, about halfway through the film the story shifts and, despite several impressive action scenes, never works quite as well as the writers once again over-complicate what should be a relatively straight action tale while instead focusing on more world building and setting up the next inevitable sequel. Parabellum doesn't so much as come to a close as run out of time with the story left unfinished (and me left unfulfilled).

I'd slot the latest sequel somewhere between the first two films. It works better for me than Chapter 2 but eventually struggles with the same issues that burdened the first sequal with an overabundance of plot. Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, and Lance Reddick all return to reprise their roles. The notable new additions this time are Asia Kate Dillon as the High Table's adjudicator who arrives in New York to dispense justice (why Wick, or others on the end of her wrath, never target her offers one of the film's larger plot holes), Halle Berry as an old associate of John's who is dragged into his recent troubles, Mark Dacascos as the assassin after Wick given, by far, the most screentime, and Anjelica Huston as a ghost from Wick's past who offers him the opportunity to momentarily flee from the wave of killers chasing him.

Of all the new faces, Berry and Dacascos make the most impact (as the film, like the first two before it, is memorable really only for its action). Berry is including in one of the film's biggest action sequences involving a shoot-out of a compound (although my favorite sequence all come in the first 10 minutes of the film), and Dacascos offers plenty of great action as a experienced killer fangirling over going up against John Wick for the first time. Providing most of the film's humor, Dacascos almost feels like he's in a different, i.e. more carefree, shoot-em-up than the rest of the characters on hand. Like the previous films, Parabellum will dazzle you with elaborate action sequences and a high body count. Unfortunately, like Chapter 2, Chapter 3 lets story get in the way too often of what we've paid to see - John Wick kill as many people as possible.

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