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"JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM"
(2019) (Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action: Having broken the rules of his assassin world, a formerly retired hitman tries to make things right with those in power above him, all while avoiding a slew of people who want him dead for the bounty on his head.
PLOT:
Having broken the rules of his assassin world by killing another hitman on neutral territory in New York's The Continental hotel, John Wick (KEANU REEVES) has been declared "excommunicado" from the establishment -- and the resources and privileges that come with that -- by its owner, Winston (IAN McSHANE). But that man gives John a one-hour head start to try to stay one step ahead of the many real and would-be assassins desirous of collecting the $14 million bounty on his head.

His actions have resulted in the appearance of The Adjudicator (ASIA KATE DILLON) from the High Table (a council of high-level crime lords) who gives both Winston and another crime lord, the Bowery King (LAURENCE FISHBURNE), seven days to get their affairs in order. She also assigns sushi-chef assassin Zero (MARK CADASCOS) to find and kill John who's already gone to meet the Director (ANGELICA HUSTON), a Russian ballet director and High Table official, in hopes of clearing his name.

That leads to him traveling to Casablanca where he meets up with Sofia (HALLE BERRY), an assassin who isn't pleased to see him but owes him a favor for him having previously gotten her daughter out of harm's way. All of which results in John meeting one High Table official after another and then his final assignment -- to kill Winston back at The Continental where that crime figure and his concierge, Charon (LANCE REDDICK), await what they realize is going to be a bloodbath of a battle.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
I've been reviewing movies professionally since the mid-1990s, and averaging anywhere from 150 to 250 films per year I've seen pretty much all there is to see, often repeated ad nauseam. I've never really thought about the most common thing I've seen in total quantity, but I'd guess it's probably people being killed.

After all, there can only be so much kissing, drinking, smoking and what have you in any given film, but violent pics can and often do have body counts that register in the hundreds. Multiplied by a certain number of such films each year over the course of several decades of movie-watching, and that's maybe even too much on-screen carnage for the Grim Reaper to handle.

While end of the world, other such disaster flicks and certain sci-fi films occasionally feature entire populations being wiped out, those are hard to get total numbers of the dearly departed, mainly because most of them are done en masse. But for some action films where most if not all of the deaths are depicted on the screen, sometimes those are also difficult to get exact numbers without multiple viewings or the ability to pause or watch in slow motion.

The "John Wick" movies clearly fall into that latter category, with the number being significant in the original installment, jumping quite a bit in the second three years later, and apparently now bumping that count even more in "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum."

Taking up just moments after the conclusion of the last outing, we see the title character (a returning Keanu Reeves, still in fine fighting form) running through New York, bloodied and realizing his one-hour head start -- in regard to a $14 million bounty on his head, with plenty of men desirous of collecting that payday -- is about to run out.

For having killed a fellow assassin on neutral territory the last time around -- in the Continental Hotel run by Winston (Ian McShane) -- John is now excommunicado and has lost all privileges, protections, and resources afforded his type in this particular hitman universe. Not only are the hitmen after him, but a no-nonsense official known as the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) from the "High Table" has also arrived to clean up this mess and remove Wick and any and all who've helped him of recent.

At the same time, he's trying to reset his status with the powers that be and is cashing in all of his favors with a variety of people ranging from the likes of a ballet director (Anjelica Huston) who runs an assassin training school to a former assassin turned "management" (Halle Berry) who isn't happy to see Wick but owes him for past help.

All of which is designed by screenwriters Derek Kolstad and Shay Hatten and Chris Collins & Marc Abrams not only to open up the travelogue scope of the flick -- sort of James Bond style, including a stopover in Casablanca -- but also -- and mainly -- to hang the film's various signature action sequences. And some of those are doozies, significantly upping the visually violent ante from the two preceding films. Returning director Chad Stahelski continues to impress in that regard, which really isn't a surprise considering his extensive past in the world of movie stunt work, and much of the action choreography is nothing short of stunning.

That includes a one-on-one battle between Wick and a giant of a man in a library, a much longer one where Berry and Reeves dispatch a lot of bad guys in Casablanca (but the real stars of that sequence are two dogs who dart into action in exhilarating ways), and then the best of the bunch. That's when Wick battles a bunch of bad guys where display cases are broken to obtain more weapons to throw and even shards of glass get into the act in an extended moment that feels like Jackie Chan as filtered through Quentin Tarantino.

It's too bad any of those aren't the concluding battle as I found them more "fun" than the obligatory, final mano a mano bout between Wick and a sushi chef (Mark Dacascos) who's as good at chopping up people as he is fishies. That one has its moments, but slightly feels like a bit of a letdown in comparison to what preceded it. And like before, the non-action, downtime scenes -- while necessary to give viewers a breather -- aren't particularly that noteworthy.

Even so, I found the overall effort -- while exceedingly violent and clearly not for all viewers -- more entertaining in a "what did I just see" fashion than the previous two installments. And for that, "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum" rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed May 9, 2019 / Posted May 17, 2019


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