18th May2019

‘John Wick: Chapter 3′ Review – Second Opinion

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Anjelica Huston, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Jason Mantzoukas, Jerome Flynn, Robin Lord Taylor | Written by Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, Marc Abrams | Directed by Chad Stahelski

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is once again directed by Chad Stahelski, after co-directing the first instalment in 2014 and returned to the director’s chair solo on John Wick: Chapter 2. The latest John Wick instalment takes place momentarily after the previous chapter and finds the titular character on the run against any and all of New York City, including the continental itself. Stahelski’s film is a continuation of the action excellence that is slowly defining the genre. It succeeds in managing to turn the Gun-Fu action up to an eleven and still maintains a fresh, entertaining and energetic vibrancy, with a stunning amount of action entertainment that would make the likes of modern franchises such as James Bond and Mission: Impossible blush.

Before we start, yes, the body count is enormous. I lost count with specific numbers and can’t even begin to give an estimation of how many bodies John Wick and Co. lay waste. Yet, that’s never particularly been the highlight of this franchise. It is this ongoing evolving execution (no pun intended) that makes this franchise all the more appealing, distinctive and engaging with each entry. This chapter opens the world up enormously. Not only in terms of world building but also in character depth. The world building adds so much more to what we’ve seen before, and while serving answers to questions we as an audience have been anticipating, the film to its credit incorporates small instances of breadcrumbs of where this franchise is going to head. Convicted in this small scale of engagement that’s subtle, and not a sequel baiting or on the nose procedural that is never coming to pass in the likes of other modern franchises.

The character depth, considering this is the third entry, is all the more surprising and well executed. This could easily have been a snooze fest with large action sequences that are derivative of the last, but we’ve given layers and depth to arcs and threads that this franchise crafted since 2014. On offer is a whole host of new fresh vibrancies of the high table and continental, but also in the way of fleshing out John Wick, himself. Even with four credited writers on board in Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins & Marc Abrams all adding input and decision, it’s actually miraculous that this feature isn’t more all over the place with so many people are on board. Considering the John Wick franchise has never been an overly convoluted nor dialogue-driven experience it does beg the question why four credited writers are needed. However, it works, and the result are very small but rich references to Wick with his past in his training and development, as well as is humanity and mortality, that has never been more in abundance. Therefore, the resulting performance is also evolved and far richer than before. Reeves has never been the greatest visually emotive performer. However, his physicality and dedication to his craft are second to none, and once again his performance as John Wick is nothing short of stellar hard work and conviction. The sheer practicality on offer is jaw-dropping. It’s slick, stylish and brilliantly choreographed action entertainment that Reeves is wholeheartedly involved with.

The newcomers here are standout and arguably some of the best characters in this universe. Halle Berry as Sofia is excellent, nothing short but nothing more. Her sequences in Casablanca are exhilarating and undeniably entertaining. Berry, much like Reeves, fully throws herself into this character with significant depth and sufficient layers. In my previous point in the above paragraph, Berry’s Sofia is a prime example of giving the audience an adequate character, while also serving subtle elements that possibly set up something in the future. Berry just utterly nails her performance. The Academy Award winner stands just as tall as Reeves in this role of ultra-high-octane action and suits the criteria brilliantly. That being said the performance is slightly underutilised, albeit feels organic and a natural arc. Let us hope this franchise wants to open itself up for more in the future because Berry’s Sofia would be a prime candidate for exploration.

Asia Kate Dillon is also magnificent as The Adjudicator. The Orange is the New Black and Billons performer has outstanding screen presence in an incredibly slick role that adds that little slight bit of depth to the world, while still reeling in the mysticism and enigmatic nature of the high table. As does villain of the piece Mark Dacascos as Zero. A wonderfully charismatic and distinctively envisioned character that revels in the slightly absurd. Angelica Huston, Jerome Flynn and Jason Mantzoukas all have bloated cameos with only Huston really injecting any flavour or impact to the events that unfold. The returning players in the likes of Lawrence Fishburne, Ian McShane and Lance Reddick are all wonderfully exercised and utilised to a greater degree, but with the inclusion of Fishburne and Randall Duk Kim, would it have been so much to ask for the inclusion of Carrie-Anne Moss for a Matrix reunion of sorts? Probably, but one can still dream.

The practical effects on offer here are tremendous. How they’re incorporated into the action sequences with seamless effect are outrageously immersive and exceptionally entertaining. There are multiple sequences here, namely the entire first act, that are nothing short of mesmerising. The thrill, excitement and fulfilment captured is utterly inducing in terms of how engaging the tension and atmosphere are. You feel the intensity of the events unfolding before your eyes. This is not your casual action-romp. This is a film in what you see is what you get. If Reeves is fighting a horde of enemies in a knife fight, that is exactly what was filmed, and you can bet that’s actually Reeves putting himself through such. The film also manages to constantly outdo itself in terms of evolving each new and approved set piece. The nightclub sequence in the first film, the catacombs sequence in the sequel, and now you have three separate sequences that outdo each and every one of them that have come before it. You’re left in complete awe of how exhilarating this film is, it even comes across slightly exasperating with how excessive it is in its nature, but with the inclusion of more comedic undertones and a strong palette this time around with visual comedy. The film breaks itself down to a tailored and easily digestible consumption and the result is a film with pockets open to these small instances of comedy that feel refreshing with a stronger impact of action after the fact.

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