Si Vis Pacem, para bellum.
For the non scholars of dead languages, you might be interested to know this Latin phrase translates as, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” It’s safe to say that no one prepares for war like John Wick does.
(This review is spoiler-free.)
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finds himself on the run from legions of assassins when a $14 million contract is placed on his head.
The opening of John Wick Chapter 3 picks up minutes after the end of its 2017 predecessor, with Reeves’ wronged, out-of-retirement, assassin running through Manhattan, looking for a safe haven. If you remember, Wick committed the cardinal sin of killing a member of the shadowy assassins’ guild known as The High Table in the swank killers sanctuary of the New York Continental Hotel, run by Ian McShane. Declared “excommunicado”, a bullseye is placed on John as all services and resources have been taken due to his actions. The only advantage was given by McShane’s hotel owner, Winston, providing his old friend a one-hour head start to disappear before word got out to all the other trigger-happy assassins.
In this movie, it’s open season on Mr. Wick.
With this bounty, Wick is a man of few friends and resources. Reeves’ hitman is the ultimate tragic loner – haunted by his past and now hunted by his former associates. And this role fits the 54 year-old actor (who can still take and dish out a beating). Like the slim black suit that he wears on the job, Keanu Reeves seemed born for this role.
From the first brawl in John Wick 3, it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t keep track of the body count (in case you haven’t learned from the previous two films). What makes this brawl – and the dozens of subsequent others – so amazing isn’t the lighting-quick close quarters or the cameo appearances from Asian cinema martial-arts heavies from films such as The Raid, it’s the fact that these fights are inventive and the punches really hurt.
What sets the Wickverse apart from their ultraviolent action peers is the world that screenwriter Derek Kolstad created for the first film. One of the new characters introduced in this entry helps explain the fine print of The High Table like a book of cliff-notes you want to dive into. A wildly creative and detailed realm of rules, codes of conduct, old-world hierarchies and civility, this world is allowed to breathe and become fleshed out without feeling rushed. It even adds a dash of intelligence and class to a movie that is usually filed under mindless entertainment.
Halle Berry’s badass assassin helps steal the middle third of the movie, a place where the pace of these films usually slows down and loses the audience. This film doesn’t do that and doesn’t try to add unnecessary fluff that would make audiences groan. It knows what works and builds upon the foundation set in the first movie. I don’t want to give the impression that John Wick: Chapter 3 is anything grander than a gorgeously, choreographed violent action movie. But as this genre goes, it’s high-class art on the silver screen.
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