Pulp Appeal: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

So we’ve talked about John Wick before, but with Chapter 3: Parabellum having just been released, we figured it would be a good idea to revisit the franchise. Some spoilers will follow.

For anyone that doesn’t know- John Wick, prior to the events of the first movie, was a retired assassin, the one you sent to kill other assassins in fact. Over the course of the films, he is brought back into the underworld of crime, only to find himself on the wrong side of well, just about everyone. The third movie picks up exactly with where the second one left off, with John tired and wounded, with an hour to go before an open bounty of fourteen million dollars is called. What with being in New York, people are coming out of the woodwork to collect.

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Yes, Keanu Reeves rides a horse in this installment. Yes, it is glorious.

A highlight of the film is the introduction of Halle Barry as someone who has a past history with Wick, down to her having been an assassin herself, and one who owes John a favor. John is able to talk her into helping him, even though she risks putting herself at odds against the rest of the underworld.  Seriously, there could be an entire movie centered on her character of Sofia, instead of the scant twenty minutes the audience is given.

Also, Mark Dacascos[1] as the villainous Zero creates an excellent foil to Wick. Where Wick is a one-man army, Zero has an entire school of assassins at his command. Where Wick is coldly stoic throughout, Zero has moments where he is outright gleeful, unable to suppress his joy at getting to meet and fight Wick. It gives what is an otherwise relentless movie a bit of humor, giving the audience a chance to breathe between the frenetic action sequences.

Speaking of the action sequences, the same philosophy that governed the first two installments continues here as well. The camera stays focused on the action instead of going with quick cuts. A lot of the action is at close-quarter range, and there is more of a focus on edged weaponry this time than in the previous two films[2] including some sword work with wakizashis. The film does require a bit of suspension of disbelief, given that murders in the middle of Grand Central go unnoticed and there is no police presence notable at any point in the film. Then again, given the level of lethality demonstrated even by the homeless faction in the movie, well… maybe they are just exercising good judgment.

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Yes, Sofia (and her dogs) totally deserves her own movie.

In talking about the film, a few people admitted that they hadn’t see the first two, and would it matter if they went into the third movie cold? Honestly, I think it depends on what you are hoping to take away from the movie. If all you are interested in is gorgeous stunt choreography and Keanu Reeves stoically making his way through one obstacle after another, then yes, you can skip the first two and dive into this one. Some of the finer plot points might go missing, but then are you really there for the plot anyway? However, I can say that it is really enjoyable to watch the world building that had to have gone into making these films gradually be revealed to the audience. There is no long exposition detailing the history of the High Table. There is no outright exposition tying the underworld to the historic and near-mythic Order of Assassins, but enough clues are dropped here and there for the connection to be made.

There are also plenty of shout-outs in the film to keep anyone happy. Be it John having to sever a finger at an important moment (bringing to my mind at least ideas of the Yakuza but also the Assasins’ Creed franchise) to Wick having to battle a giant assassin in a shout out to Bruce Lee’s fight against Kareem Abdul Jabbar in Game of Death. There’s also a glorious moment when Wick tells Winston that he’s going to need “Guns. Lots of guns.”

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Mark Dacascos. Excellent chef. Killer shinobi.

And while the third movie ends on a cliffhanger, with still a lot to be resolved, the good news is that a fourth film has already been greenlit and is scheduled to appear in theatres May 21, 2021. I, for one, cannot wait to see what they’ve got cooked up for us next.

[1] The fact that we just talked about Brotherhood of the Wolf last week is not lost on me.

[2] There is an extended knife fight… which manages to avoid the pointy-end always landing first as you can clearly see some of the knives bouncing off the combatants instead.

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5 Responses to Pulp Appeal: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

  1. Reblogged this on Mangled Latin and commented:

    Matt got to see John Wick Chapter 3, and I’m jealous.


  2. Pingback: Small Crimes: Monday Reads – Unlawful Acts

  3. Pingback: Incident Report No. 79 – Unlawful Acts

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