Drenched in glistening neon lights, busy roads, sombre score in the background and the clouds wide open pouring fierce on the city, we see Buster Keaton from ‘The General’ on the gigantic screen at the Times Square. It almost feels like watching Ridley Scott’s neo-noir ‘Blade Runner’, and Harrison Ford could show up anytime on the screen, until, a man who killed with a fucking pencil shows up dog-tired, weary and debilitated. He will soon be declared excommunicado, and on the run to save his life. ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ starts off moments after ‘John Wick: Chapter 2‘ ended.
The suave and charismatic Winston (played by Ian McShane) offers Wick a head start of one hour; either a friendly gesture or for his amusement to see more blood spills, jaw breaks and bone cracks. But before Baba Yaga – the myth, the man, the legend – could take assassins’ coterie head on, he makes sure to drop off his dog to safety. He is a man of character. He even keeps the Russian literature “Russian Folk Tale, Aleksandr Afanasyev, 1864” back on the shelf after using it as a weapon to kill an assassin in the most imaginative and ridiculously entertaining action scene.
Parabellum expands on the universe of soulless and mostly nameless assassins who work under the cabal of crime lords- The High Table. The mythical organization that sharply draws a parallel with the functioning of any religious body is driven by stubborn rules and governed by the commerce of relationship. The rule that has put Wick’s life at stake. In one of the amusing scenes, a doctor stops treating Wick the moment he is officially excummincado. The godawful rules.
Who would have thought that killing ‘the puppy’ would bring out the beast in Keanu Reeves; it gives us back the action hero we once loved and substantial outsize the success to run into its third chapter. The budget has increased, hence the influx of popular actors and the addition of new characters, although some of them are mercilessly reduced to caricatures to even register. ‘Tick Tock Man’ played by ‘Jason Mantzoukas’ and ‘Yayan Ruhian’ who rose to popularity in ‘The Raid’ series are under-utilized and merely used as a prop.
Halle Berry’s Sofia, an ex-assassin with two loyal Belgian Malinois, is introduced in the film to provide an emotional deft to Wick’s arc that kept on killing from one scene to another, from one city to another. The issue is that writing doesn’t help to flesh out the camaraderie. Expository dialogue has never been the character of Wick, and Reeves is not great with expression. Instead, it slows down the pace of the film.
But that’s the minor glib in the otherwise hyper-stylized, postmodernist action film that delivers what it promises. Every frame is pièce de résistance and the credit must go to the veteran Danish director of photography Dan Laustsen. He changes the slimline New York into an atmospheric post-apocalyptic city soaked in smoke and rain. Even the expansive and aesthetically impressive glasshouse scenes are artistically noirish.
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John Wick, very much like Mission Impossible series, laboriously relies on the spectacular practical effects that includes a long chase scenes on bike and horse, and beautifully choreographed hand to hand martial-art combat. Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves have single-handedly amped up the ante of actions films in the last five years, and oh boy! they are unstoppable. The action choreography is highly imaginative and lyrical. It’s sleek and visually stunning filled with heart-pounding thrills that keeps you at the edge of a seat. John Wick Chapter 3 is truly an action marvel of the year. “Life is suffering,” says a character to Wick. And Wick is still alive. I am all game for Mr Wick to make ‘The High Table’ suffer.