I’m doing a push to get more support on my Patreon, specifically to get to 60 supporters, and to that end, I’m running a sample from each of the six support tiers I have.
We start with the cheapest tier: movie reviews! If you pledge $1 per month, you’ll get a movie review every month. I’ve reviewed both new and classic films, and here I present as a sample, my review of John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum from May 2019.
movie review: John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
John Wick was one of the surprise hits of 2014, earning $43 million against a paltry $20 million budget. Nobody expected Keanu Reeves to become an action icon in his late 40s and early 50s, but here we are with the third John Wick movie now in theatres, with the subtitle Parabellum, which is Latin for “prepare for war.”
One of the problems I had with John Wick Chapter 2 was when the contract goes out on Wick, people actually took it. In the first movie, it all made sense, because the inciting incident was taken by someone who didn’t know any better, and Wick was the one going after them. But when the contract goes out on Wick in the second movie, a bunch of his colleagues all take on the task, and you gotta ask, why? The idiot in the first movie who killed his dog was ignorant, but the people who took on the contract to kill the greatest assassin in this fictional world all know exactly who he is and how good he is. There should have been at least a few who looked at their phones, saw the text message, laughed their asses off, and went on with their lives. You can’t spent seven million dollars if you’re dead, and that’s what happens to most people who get on Wick’s bad side.
Parabellum ameliorates this issue in two ways. One is that the movie commences with Wick being completely excommunicated. All support has been removed, and in fact, the only reason he survives to make it to Casablanca is because a doctor and the matriarch of his Romany tribe help him out despite the sanction. (They both suffer for it, too.) And then Halle Berry’s Sofia helps him also because she owes him a favor, and she also may suffer serious consequences. (How much is unclear. Having said that, I’d love to find out in a solo movie featuring Sofia and her two Awesome Dogs Of Doom. This is a spinoff opportunity that the filmmakers should not screw up. Bad enough that we never got a Wai Lin spinoff from the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, the biggest missed opportunity in the history of action movies, but we’re still waiting for a Black Widow movie a decade into the MCU, too. Stop fucking this up, Hollywood!)
Wick doesn’t just have a contract on him, now, he’s got the power of the High Table completely against him. That changes the rules a little bit and makes it far more likely that people will take on the task of going after the indestructible Wick.
The second thing is that we get the sushi chef played by Mark Dacascos and his helpers, who are total John Wick fangoobers. These are guys who want the chance to go after Wick, not because they necessarily think they can succeed, but because just getting to fight someone as amazing as him is an honor. It’s an attitude borne very much of Asian martial arts and the warrior ethos of many peoples from the Eastern hemisphere, where the honor is in fighting a worthy opponent. Winning or losing is less important than the glory of the battle. (I also liked Wick respecting the two henchmen who almost beat him enough to let them live with just a nod.)
Believing that this movie actually takes place in the real world is increasingly problematic the more the series goes on. Too much of the action either takes place in unconvincingly abandoned locations (like the lower level of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which is, at least, labeled as closed to traffic, or various side streets in lower Manhattan, or the stacks of the New York Public Library, which aren’t even open to the public in reality) or in the middle of crowds who somehow fail to notice people killing each other right in front of them.
Look, I know that there’s a stereotype that New Yorkers are only self-directed and don’t pay attention to what’s going on around them, but that’s only actually true about uninteresting or unimportant things happening around them. If someone trips and falls in Grand Central Terminal, there’ll be a dozen people helping that person up in an instant. Someone being fatally stabbed (an action which would result in blood all over the nice marble floor) would cause comment and not go unremarked upon and unnoticed by the throngs, as absurdly happens in this movie. This is exacerbated by Ian McShane’s Winston saying that he has all of New York behind him when he stares down the High Table at the end, and I don’t buy it for a second, because there’s no connection between the stylized world of assassins and the actual New York City. You don’t see a connection, and Winston’s attempt to make one rings false.
(Don’t even get me started on the absurd geography, as this movie puts things close to each other that are, in fact, nowhere near each other in the actual New York…)
As always with any John Wick film, the action is superbly choreographed, from the hand-to-hand action in the museum storage facility early on to the gunfights in Casablanca to the siege of the Continental to Reeves’s fights with Dacascos and his henchmen. And the acting is superb. One expects great things from Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston, Berry, McShane, and Dacascos, of course, and they don’t disappoint (Fishburne in particular almost steals the movie, and he does totally steal the closing scene). Also superlative are Asia Kate Dillon as the cool-as-a-cucumber Adjudicator and Saïd Taghmaoui as the High Table representative who takes Wick’s finger and gives him a way out.
Reeves remains the calm center of it all, his low-key ultra-competence and impressive dignity in the face of insanity keeping the film on track nicely.
Having said that, I am frustrated by the outsized praise these films receive while another film that is exactly the same movie in all the ways that matter was critically drubbed and quickly forgotten. I speak of 2018’s Proud Mary starring Taraji P. Henson. The only difference between the Henson film and the Reeves movie series are that the John Wick movies are about white people with a white male lead (yes, there are people of color, but they remain a minority—and, to be fair, there are more of them in Parabellum than in the first two) and Proud Mary is about black people with a black female lead. Gawrsh.
Still, this movie is a fun continuation of this very stylish series with some beautifully directed action and some fine acting by several of our finest thespians. And it sets up Chapter 4, which is likely to be the very war that they were preparing for in this one…
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