Saturday, October 5, 2019

Movie Reviews: John Wick 3

John Wick 3
directed by Chad Stahelski
Sequels are rarely as good as the original or proceed in a way that logically grows from the original movie. John Wick 3 is an exception to that rule. The film's only negative was that the special effects created for the numerous head shots the titular character inflicts on the mostly nameless mooks trying to kill him look like video game simulations. 

That reduces some emotional intensity but that's a small quibble. This movie, which shows everybody and their brother trying to kill John Wick, reaches for but does not quite match the ferocity of the Indonesian movies The Raid and The Raid 2. It gives multiple shout outs to those films, though, both via some of the action set pieces and a cameo from an actor from those movies.

This review requires a quick recap of the first two movies. In the first film John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a retired assassin who formerly worked for the Russian Mafia. His wife just died. The last thing she gave him was a dog. In a particularly unfortunate sequence of events, the son of John Wick's old boss decided to steal John Wick's car. Just to be mean he also killed John Wick's dog.

Needless to say this person did not know who John Wick was. As his father explained to his sub-moronic son, John Wick was the man you send to kill the boogeyman. Mugging the Monster is never a good idea. Wick went on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, eliminating every member of the organization that used to employ him. 

John Wick isn't just an assassin. He's a member of an international brotherhood of super skilled assassins who operate by peculiar and allegedly inviolate rules.  

In the second film, an Italian Mob boss noticed John's return to the wetwork. The boss decided that as John was no longer retired, the boss could call in a marker that John owed him. Those rules again. John reluctantly agreed to do One Last Job for this boss. Well you know One Last Jobs never work out. John was betrayed. The Italian boss fled to the New York Continental Hotel, a place owned by that aforementioned brotherhood of assassins and operated by John's good friend Winston (Ian McShane). 

Violence is strictly forbidden at certain places. The Continental is one of them. But John no longer cared. He murdered the mob boss inside the Continental. Winston gave him an hour's head start but after that every assassin in the world would be notified that John would be declared "excommunicado". Anyone could murder him for a bounty worth millions.

John Wick 3 starts with John running thru the New York streets. Around him cellphones are chirping and vibrating. Some people are smiling at him. There are only minutes left before it's legal to murder him. John needs to make it to...the public library?

John Wick 3 does a deeper dive into the assassin's world of debt and obligation that was referenced in the first two movies. We get some more reveals of John's origin. There is an almost religious sense in honoring a marker (it has the debtor's blood contained within) and it's apparently unthinkable that anyone in that life would not honor a marker. This can be problematic when such debt is measured against one's interest in staying alive, keeping family safe, obeying orders, or other primary goals that most people have.

The ugly, bossy and thoroughly unpleasant Adjudicator (Asia Dillon) shows up as a representative of the High Table (assassin upper management). She's suspicious of Winston's true loyalty and upset that Winston didn't kill John immediately. Lance Reddick appears again as Charon, the fastidious, polite, professional, and misleadingly harmless hotel Concierge. 

Lawrence Fishburne is the Bowery King,  a man who is also on the Adjudicator's naughty list for friendship with John Wick. Halle Berry is Sofia, a (former?) friend of John Wick's. 

Angelica Huston is a demanding Russian matriarch. Mark Dacascos is an assassin who's modeled himself after Wick for years. Former Detroit Piston Boban Marjanovic has a short cameo as an assassin who sees no need to wait out the full hour to murder Wick. Said Taghmaoui is a man who might be able to help Wick.

This film was exceedingly violent. Lots of bloodshed. But what makes it work is that the fights have visual room. You can actually see what's going on.  Also there are consequences for actions. Everything that John is suffering through (and he does suffer) is a direct result of him being unable to tolerate the insult to his late wife's memory. But when you're the baddest muyerfuyer on the planet perhaps there's nothing wrong with a very healthy ego. As in most movies of this type, the protagonist remains sympathetic because he's honest and acting in self-defense. 
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