Age Rating: 16+
Runtime: 2 hours, 11 minute
Director: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick
“Si vis pacem, para bellum – If you want peace, prepare for war.”
The John Wick film franchise is certainly unrivaled currently in terms of high-level fight choreography and this is partly due to the director’s unique relationship with Keanu Reeves. Chad Stahelski, who co-directed the first John Wick and then moved onto solo directing John Wick 2 and now John Wick 3 served as Keanu Reeves’ Matrix stunt double throughout the Matrix trilogy as well as becoming credited as the martial arts stunt coordinator.
Stahelski is the mastermind behind the lens utilising his deep knowledge of the history of action films, his special bond with Reeves and his ever-present focus on stylised realism. John Wick 3 is a 2+ hour non-stop sprint that is sure to leave the audience satisfied if perhaps a little fatigued by the end.The story picks up right where John Wick 2 left us with Wick about to have a price on his head after violating one of the few unbreakable rules of the underworld, an unsanctioned killing in the New York Continental hotel. The Continental is treated as a place of sanctuary for all in this underworld, with no blood allowed on the grounds no matter the reason. Due to Wick’s actions he is “excommunicado” by the High Table who keep order of the underworld and a $14 million bounty is placed on his head.
Wick has a chance to collect some supplies and it isn’t long before he is beating someone to death using only a book in a public library and having a knife fight with a dozen attackers in an antique store. The bounty upon Wick’s head ensures the film never loses its fast pace for long as everyone is looking to cash in on the legend that is John Wick.
“A fourteen-million-dollar bounty on his head, and everyone in the city wants a piece of it, I’d say the odds are about even.”
Surrounding John Wick are a set of interesting characters with their own story told through hints and alliances, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane and particularly Lance Reddick all have their own great moments supporting Wick and fleshing out their own character and story.
Halle Berry plays Sofia who owes a long-time debt to Wick which he needs to cash in if he is to survive. Berry has a fantastic showing in an exotic location set piece which cements John Wick 3 as a step-up from the previous two films in terms of the size and scope of its action. There is no sign of slow-down from either actor with Reeves at fifty-four and Berry at fifty-two and this scene certainly showcases the abilities of both along with two good boys in the form of Sofia’s two Belgian Malinois attack dogs.
Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King and Ian McShane as Winston, the manager of the New York Continental chew up the scenery with their well-earned screen presence with Fishburne in particular seeming to be having a great time with this franchise.
Lance Reddick’s character of Charon, the concierge at the New York Continental has proved to be a fan favourite throughout this franchise and finally gets his chance to get in on the action and goes big with an assault necessitating armour piercing shotgun rounds.
“What do you need?”
“Guns. Lots of guns.”
Keanu Reeves never misses a beat throughout John Wick 3 and while he never reaches the emotional displays shown in the first John Wick this is not necessarily a criticism as John Wick 3 shows us a glimpse into the bogeyman that Wick is capable of becoming once again, this bogeyman that is often mentioned by any character discussing Wick’s past as an unstoppable force of guaranteed death, Baba Yaga.
There are some scenes which attempt to pull on Wick’s strings of emotion regarding his deceased wife, who was always framed as the love of his life however Wick is quick to shut these down and remain focused on his mission of survival.
The sound design is crisp and the music stylings compliment each scene well, however, the third installment does not have any signature stand out track similar to the first film’s nightclub shootout scene track by Le Castle Vania.
Visually the film varies from gorgeous to look at through its neo noir lens to some bland displays during daytime scenes as well as a couple of noticeably janky CGI moments, however, the immersion is never broken and the audience is swept from night to day to night to day in a nice array of settings and locations.
“All of this, for what? Because of a puppy?”
“It wasn’t just a puppy.”
John Wick 3 ups the ante of the previous 2 installments by giving the audience more of everything through intricate and carefully crafted action set pieces while at the same time manages to progress the story of the titular character and those around him. This is the type of third film in a franchise that aids the second film going forward as John Wick 2 and John Wick 3 fit together quite nicely now for a back to back viewing while previously the second film suffered as being an ‘in-between’ type of sequel which many second films in franchises/trilogies can suffer from.
The audience may be fatigued by the end of the long running time of John Wick 3 as the break-neck speed the film runs at for the majority doesn’t give enough resting beats for a breather or to explore more story/dialogue driven opportunities with the characters. This audience overwhelming as well as an awkwardly structured final five minutes means the film does stutter in places when trying to change gear. However, these are small criticisms in the grand scope of a film which provides a lesson for other action orientated films on the importance of fluidity and choreography which too many franchises currently take lazy shortcuts on.
At fifty-four years old Keanu Reeves is still showing us a fresh take in this genre of action that makes for an extremely satisfying viewing and with a $50+ million debut at the box office it shows there is a still a huge audience hungry for it.
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