Do you like watching dudes get stabbed a dozen times? How about getting shot until they collapse to the ground before being capped off by one final blow right into the dome? Or better yet, how about getting kicked in the head by a horse enough to have their freaking necks snap?
In other words, are you a fan of violence? If so, then I have exciting news for you: John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum is not only one of the most punctuation rich titles in recent memory, but a seemingly endless orgy of hyper-violence and destruction.
The John Wick franchise has been a pleasant surprise over the past few years. The first film was released five years ago to modest results on an even more modest budget. The second came out three years later and more than doubled the gross with the third having passed that number up in under two weeks. The John Wick franchise is the kind of underground success story that has become rare in modern Hollywood. With every film trying to one up each other with dazzling effects and enormous spectacles, seeing the much more scaled down action of John Wick is a refreshing change of pace.
These are action films that have little to no computer created effects in a world that is dominated by cg effects with characters that are entirely cg. Instead, their action is a throwback to older action flicks and are entirely reliant on intricate choreography, stunt work and gunplay. The latter is how this series made its name; the way Wick wields his weapons became particularly well known once some of Keanu Reeves’ training started to circulate. The gunplay in these films are just as much of a star as Reeves’ is, and are the most celebrated aspects of the series. Accompanying these intricate gun fights are car chases and battles as well as some hand to hand action that is in stark contrast to the modern trend.
Fight scenes from this generation of action films are littered with close ups, rapid editing, and a shaky camera meant to hide clarity and sew chaos in the scenes. These fights involve near super humans or actual super humans, so their engagements are going to be beyond our comprehension, so it is understandable that their battles would be faster and harder than we can see. The battles in the John Wick are shot with long takes and medium shots with a stable camera so that all of the action can be soaked up and enjoyed. The battles are theatrical and brutal, and are unlike either the Bourne inspired pandemonium, or The Matrix inspired grace from their battle scenes. The fights in the John Wick series create a beautiful symphony of death that can only be achieved from conductors who have been in the stunt game for a very long time.
John Wick is the best innovator of using a gun to kill people since James Bond.
There is one problem that comes with this style: saturation. There are points in each of the John Wick films in which we see some maneuvers frequently, to put it lightly. After watching Wick Judo-slip a guy over his shoulder before shooting him in the head for the 149th time in an hour, it begins to get a little old. With such strict dedication to the style of their combat, the John Wick films reuse some of their tricks a few too many times. This is at its worst in the second film, but the creators seemed to figure this out, as the third film does everything it can to mix up the fight scenes. Everything mention in the into happens, along with a myriad of other ways for bad dudes to get brutally killed. There is still a problem of saturation within some scenes, but the overall fight scenes are different enough so that the overall engagements don’t get stale.
One last parting note about these fight scenes- it cannot be iterated enough how violent this film is. Hyper-violence has few more apt examples than John Wick: Chapter 3- Parrabellum. It is simultaneously over the top to the point of being comical and real enough to make the more squeamish folks in the audience considering a move towards the exit. If you can handle and enjoy copious amounts of violence and destruction, then feel free to indulge in this bloodbath.
What better setting can one imagine for all of this extreme violence than a whimsical fantasy land? Whimsical may be disingenuous, but make no mistake that the setting for this film is a fantasy. It is a strange parallel version of New York in which there is not a single crime committed that is not part of a larger organized network. Obvious crime organizations from Europe and Asia are obviously here, but in the Wickian version of New York, even the homeless people are part of an organized crime network. IN addition to these crime families, there exists a sort of hallowed ground in the form of a hotel called The Continental where no killing business may be conducted. In both the sequels, this fantasy world is revealed to spread beyond New York and America and into Europe and at least the northern part of Africa. Binding all of these crime organizations together is a series of rules both written and unwritten. The end result is a world that shares more in common with the one from the Pirates of the Caribbean films than other traditional action films.
There is not much to say about these films. Reeves’ is a bit of a throwback to Arnold Schwarzenegger by virtue of bring charismatic via his strange lack of charisma. His line delivery is oddly flat and robotic, yet still interesting and almost compelling at points. It isn’t like Reeves’ can’t act, it’s just that within the Wickian fantasy world, there isn’t room for a ruthless killing machine who can also have a hint of charm. Also don’t expect a lot of high drama or award winning character development, as anyone like that in this world would probably become an unwitting contributor John Wick’s abstract art piece, “Mountain of Bodies and Guts.”
John Wick: Chapter 3- Parrabellum is one of the best underground success stories to come out of Hollywood in quite some time. A throwback to stunt driven action films which has managed to find more success with each entry, and with each film finding new ways to drive the series forward culminating in a third film which finds more creative ways to destroy people’s brains, bones and other bodily features. As long as you go in without expecting any form of cinematic art other than that of violence.