Movie review: John Wick 3

May 18, 2019
Keanu Reeves

‘JOHN Wick’ started in 2014 when the eponymous hired killer went on a killing rampage to avenge the death of the puppy that was given to him by his dead wife. It was a pumped-up piece of action escapism that gave Keanu Reeves his next hit franchise after he played Neo in “The Matrix”.

Part 2 introduced bullet-proof designer suits and sumo assassins. Part 3 now cranks up the action to a higher level with its signature brutality, but also deepens the mythology involving criminals and assassins, and dishes out several brawl scenes that will surely make you cringe and wince. If you are of the faint of heart, this will turn you off. But if you are the type who thirst for more and more violence (and there’s more of this among viewers today), then you will relish every scene in this movie.

It’s now obvious that John Wick must live in an alternative universe, one in which old style phone and computers are still in wide use, where people are killed violently inside train stations and no one even pays attention, where a cavernous hotel designed for criminals have fantastic rooms full of glass and an arsenal of ammunitions that can kill entire populations. It doesn’t make much sense if you’d treat it so seriously, but who cares, it’s still a blast.

Part 3 begins immediately where Part 2 ended. John is now ex-communicado after breaking the rules and killing Santino D’Antonio inside the Continental, their hotel aka sanctuary. All his rights are revoked and every hitman or woman can now take a crack at killing him to get the $14 million bounty. He runs for dear life through the streets of Manhattan. So how can he get back the favor of the top assassins of the High Table? John is forced to leave New York and go to Casablanca and then walk in the desert like Lawrence of Arabia, never attempting to put on a disguise even if he knew everyone is after his head.

The ruthless violence features knife fights where eyes are gouged and heads are impaled, all captured ruthlessly by the camera.  Asses are kicked (sometimes by horses). Heads are shot or blasted into kingdom come. Ferocious dogs attack (and they’re so good you’d wonder if they’re CGI). Several glass structures are smashed into pieces, with Keanu crashing and shattering into them and coming out unscathed.

There are motorcycle chases, bone-crunching brawls with knives and swords, and even a horse chase that’s nothing like you’ve ever seen before in the way they are staged magnificently by Director Chad Stahelski and his team.The stunts can make even Jackie Chan, an expert in this, drool with envy.

Definitely, this is not just more of the same. The body count gets higher and higher in each movie and this is the most over the top so far, with Keanu killing someone much bigger than him (played by NBA star Boban Marjanovic)  inside the New York Public Library with only a book as his weapon. Parabellum means “prepare for war” and the important thing here is to just get from one staged fight to the next, something you do on video games. As a matter of fact, if you’re watching this on video, you’d be tempted to press the rewind button every so often to study how they executed the spectacular action set pieces.

Halle Berry pops up in Casablanca and makes a huge impact in a guest role with not so ample screen time. She and her pet canines nearly steal the movie. And it looks like she’ll be back in Part 4 as they introduce her own story here concerning her missing daughter. Angelica Huston plays another short but vital role as the director of a ballet company from Belarus who helps in filling out some blanks about John Wick’s back story and origins.

Also giving great support are Ian McShane as Winston the manager of the Continental, Lance Reddick as the concierge Charon who’s shown also engaging in combat that turned their hotel into a veritable slaughterhouse, and Asia Kate Dillon as the non-nonsense High Table’s Adjuticator who wants to give John the punishment they think he deserves.

There’s no question the movie works mainly because of Keanu. You can’t imagine it without him, his seeming indifference on his kindly face while the corpses pile up higher and higher anywhere he goes. He never cracks a smile and his seeming seriousness and invincibility makes it all so much more fun. He also gets to fight Asian martial artists from Indonesia (you saw them in “The Raid” movies), and Mark Dacascos who’s tagged as a Filipino and you can even hear some Tagalog lines in the dialogue while they’re fighting. (The cuss Tagalog words, mostly.--Ed.)

Honestly, the fight scenes are so exhausting to watch as you know they don’t cheat with editing and cutaways. But the final act is too protracted for us we start to feel getting bored. It somehow faltered to a truly satisfying climax and the wrap up showing what happens to Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King feels unjustifiably stretched. But still, as far as slambang and sadistic action is concerned, there’s no doubt the movie truly delivers.