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"John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum" Review

Short Review: It's a John Wick movie. Liked the others? You'll like this one, too.

Longer Review: While the first John Wick movie was a magnificent example of ruthlessly efficient world-building and genre-redefining action - seriously, it's been five years and anyone still peddling shakycam and edit fu fight sequences is a hack - but I thought the attempt to broaden the scope in 2017's Chapter 2 left things feeling a tad flabby. It wasn't bad by any measure, but lacked the lean mean killing machine simplicity of the first.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum - the last word coming from the Latin adage "Si vis pacem, para bellum" (translated as "If you want peace, prepare for war"); also a type of bullet - begins immediately after the conclusion of Chapter 2 (though it's darker and rainier because movie needs atmosphere) with John on the run, trying to figure out how to handle his being excommunicated from the world of assassins for his killing of a High Table member who'd betrayed him, with less than an hour before a $14 million contract on his life begins with seemingly half of the population of New York City literally gunning for him. Sure, it's hardly a fair fight - for the people trying to get him, that is - but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy.

Despite the plot taking him to Morocco and back, it feels smoother and less shaggy than last outing. We get some more glimpses of his past life, where he came from, his connection to Halle Berry's character who owes him a favor, how the High Table deals with disruptions in the system via an Adjudicator (Asia ) who is tasked with punishing Lawrence Fishburne's and Ian McShane's characters, but the central focus is action, action, more ACTION, and MOAR ACKSHUNZ!!!

Holy cow, this movie has the action, all presented in series director Chad Stahelski's signature clarity. There haven't been fight sequences this elaborate and visceral in ages (since The Matrix perhaps, which gets several meta references) and I lost count of how many times the audience and I shared in a collective "Ooooooh!!!" at a particularly savage kill. (The digital enhancements to the practical action are seamless and only noticeable because it's simply impossible to shoot people in the head and throw blades into faces like this.) Sure, it's all ridiculous and the Cinema Sins refrain of "He survives this" rings in your head as glass walls alternate between being bulletproof and shattering depending on the needs of the fight choreography, but if you're watching these movies with that skeptical an eye, you must be fun at parties.

Keanu Reeves has always been an actor of.....let's go with "limited" range, but he's lucked into a middle-aged Renaissance with this series in which benefits from his taciturn mien which has a slight wry edge. He puts in the work and while he's no match for the sheer insanity Tom Cruise brings to his action flicks, he's a boss in this world.

It can be hoped that Berry gets a career boost as well; she was a Bond girl, yet other than the X-Men movies where she didn't do any hand-to-hand brawling or gunplay, she hasn't made an action movie since the disastrous Catwoman, but she's legit here and with Angelina Jolie effectively retired and Charlize Theron unable to make every action movie requiring a beautiful Oscar-winning badass, her phone should be ringing.

John Wick: Chapter 4 has already had a May 21, 2021 release date announced. Bring it on!

Score: 8/10. Catch a matinee.


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