John Wick is not a particularly complicated man. He’s hellbent on avenging his dog/car. The third edition is yet more palpable nonsense, but it is very very good nonsense.
There will be a flurry of bullets, it will be brilliantly choreographed, but he’ll aim with ruthless efficiency and the story that is you will end thanks to one Mr Wick. Your flailing corpse will somehow be grateful for his time. It’s science.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is not, strictly speaking, a documentary, nor does it pertain to any kind of soothsaying about the end times. It is a threequel in a series whose origins took this reviewer at least by surprise. It’s a film which has the essential structure of “Keanu Reeves is a retired hitman who comes out of retirement after his car is stolen and his dog is killed.” Carnage ensues. What struck me as odd whilst first watching it was how surprisingly, bafflingly good it was. This is not supposed to be a good film, by any stretch of the imagination. It is, after all, directed by Chad Stahelski, whose prior credits involve a bunch of stunt coordination on a series of action films. This is not the stuff of many auteurs; Jean-Luc Godard had a different resume altogether.
There was a film in the ’80s called 8 Million Ways to Die, and there was a western comedy made about five years ago called A Million Ways to Die in the West; from early estimates, one might presume that John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum has taken a more averaged-out approach to this and conceived about four to five million ways. Just to get you in the mood, the film kicks off within minutes of the end of Chapter 2, and sees the titular Wick find his way to the New York Public Library where he has a duel with a large Russian and ends up doing the guy in with the business end of a book. Later in that first act, he kills a bunch of sword-carrying dudes while on horseback; this is after he’s killed a couple of other dudes with an actual horse. This is either before or after the scene that takes place in what one might only presume is a museum of deadly knives. Can’t recall, it’s all a bit of a blur.
The whole thing is palpable nonsense; violent first-person-role-playing-video-game-as-cinematic-art. But it’s such art; John Wick, encompassing the modern-day mantle of the “Man With No Name” from Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns (aside from the fact that he has a name, and it’s the name of the film), being the strong silent type who can wander into any kind of den of inequity, draw some heavy firepower, and kill dozens of ne’er do wells with surgical accuracy.
There’s endless praise to be levied at the way the fights are choreographed, in terms of the martial arts and the gun/sword/knife play. There’s a subtext about fighting and ballet, and the whole enterprise plays out like an elaborate dance, calculated and orchestrated with maniacal precision and perfect lighting.
One doesn’t attend such things with the hope of gaining a greater understanding of the human condition, and where Chapter 2 did not meet the original’s cut and thrust, its excitement, originality, or entertainment value, Parabellum (“prepare for war”) is as shiny a thing as you could ever want to possess.