Flicks With Nicki – ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’
I watched the original “John Wick” movie on an airplane. It wasn’t for me. I’m tired of the cliché about the hero with the dead wife. It insults me. As a woman and a wife, I am disposable in the story. I am the catalyst for a man’s rage, but not a tangible character of substance. I watched the first John Wick (Keanu Reeves) shoot up bad guys for two hours, and I felt indifferent to his pain and the violence that followed him.
Wick is a former assassin who comes out of retirement for revenge (“John Wick”), stays out of retirement to pay a debt (“John Wick: Chapter 2”), and goes on the run for violating the rules of the Continental Hotel (“John Wick 3”).
Don’t believe anything Wick says. It was started because of a dog.
Surprisingly, you don’t need to see the previous movies to get the gist of “Parabellum.” Each episode of John Wick rolls into the next with barely a chance to catch our breath. We meet Wick moments before his “excommunicado” goes into effect. With a $14 million bounty on his head, everyone in New York wants Wick dead. We see him shoot, stab, punch, break, gouge, and maim people. A lot of people.
I spent years watching Hong Kong action movies like “The Killers” (1989) and Korean noir-style thrillers like “Oldboy” (2003). The focus is bloody fight scenes. The movies endings are bleak at best. Though I love action and chase scenes, fighting movies aren’t my favorites. Sometimes the adrenaline rush and heartache are too much for me. I’m not always in the mood for the violence followed by despair.
But put Keanu Reeves in a dark suit, and I’ll consider watching it.
The Keanu of my youth was sweet as Ted in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (1989). Then Keanu grew edgy as an undercover agent in “Point Break” (1991) with Patrick Swayze. Keanu took me into “The Matrix” (1999) and taught me to question my reality. I’m a blue pill kind of person, I don’t want reality. The Keanu of my middle-aged years is not sweet or edgy. He is broken and sad. He gets hurt. He kills.
I feel conflicted watching a movie with so many guns and bullets. On one hand, I worry about the active shooter drills my kids face at school. On the other, I feel sad that it’s no longer acceptable to use the term “water guns.” We have water squirters and Nerf blasters with darts. No guns. No bullets.
John Wick and his enemies and his friends have guns to spare.
He is a super assassin, but he’s also breakable. He cannot return to the Continental Hotel so he finds The Director (Anjelica Huston) who grants him passage to Casablanca even though both Wick and The Director will have to pay a price. I don’t want to tell you the price. It’s painful. Bloody. Hot fire is involved. Someone loses a body part. The whole movie is gross. But I kind of liked it.
The Director runs a strange theater of tattooed ballet dancers and bruised wrestlers. In our respite from bloody fight scenes, Wick finds a sanctuary of broken and beautiful bodies. Students damaged at the hands of art and sport. It made me question my thoughts of violence and strength and beauty. This was the point in the movie when I started to pay attention.
We see that Wick is not a lone warrior. He has a network of friends including Sofia (Halle Berry), the Bowery King (Laurence Fishbourne), Winston (Ian McShane), and Charon (Lance Reddick). I didn’t go to this movie for Keanu Reeves. I went to see it for Angelica Huston and Halle Berry. These two did not disappoint. They brought their characters to life. I admired their displays of loyalty and duty and restraint. The acting, when the action allowed it, was not bad.
The villains are too many to name. Most are nameless and faceless except the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) whose lethal stoicism is reminiscent of Agent Smith in “The Matrix.” There’s also Zero (Mark Dacascos). I had to like Zero because he had a face and a name and the longest fight scene in the movie.
“John Wick 3” is my favorite of the series. Yes, the plot is thin. The stylized violence is over the top for me. I closed my eyes several times during the film. I’m squeamish of squishy violence. Many of the fight scenes went on too long. You can close your eyes and rest for a few minutes while drafting your grocery list to the sound of breaking bones. Why don’t the villains all shoot him at once? Why do they wait in turn and fight Wick one by one? If I directed the movie, it would’ve been over in about 6 minutes. But you have to give the people what they want. They want the fighting.
Most of the story was predictable, but I was able to pause and see the beauty of the choreography during each fight. They worked hard to pull everything together. I was able to find several characters that I really liked. That’s what worked for me. The characters. There were interesting people in the story. Even if they were killing everything in sight.
Pets are a very important part of the John Wick movies. He has a new dog. Bonus points for Zero’s sweet cat. Sofi has her two dogs and the Bowery King cuddles his pigeons. John Wick rides a horse through New York City. The only time I felt safe was during the scenes with animals. I felt fairly confident that the cat, three dogs, and stable full of horse were going to make it to the end of the film. Was I certain of John Wick’s fate? Not so much.
Last year my middle schooler made sugar glass as a science project. During our research, we learned that sugar glass is used in movies instead of real glass. Near the end of the “John Wick 3,” all I could think about is how much sugar glass they had to make for the final fight scene.
Grade B- because I love Angelica Huston and Halle Berry. I love thinking about a science project in the middle of a fight scene film.