Monday, June 17, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019)

If you go by IMDb ratings, the movies in the John Wick franchise just keep getting better and better, with scores of 7.4 for the first one, 7.9 for the second, and early returns showing an even 8.0 for this new one. I wouldn't actually know because, as much as I liked the first one, I have a policy about sequels so I never saw the second. Then people seemed to like this new one and I found myself in the mood for it. The popcorn guy told me he'd heard it was the greatest action movie ever made of all time, and thought I should have seen the second one because something happens in it (he didn't want to give it away) that is important in this one. Yeah, right, I think I can guess—something about a dog and/or hit man Wick (Keanu Reeves) getting out of line with this crazy Assassins Bureau thing. Look, really, plot is the least thing you need to be worried about in Parabellum (which comes from the Latin phrase Si vis pacem, para bellum, "if you want peace, prepare for war," and is also a brand name for a semiautomatic pistol or machine gun). What's important are the fights and the techno music, though there may not be enough techno music in this one. They're brutal, and some can be grotesque, though actually there's not much gore or torture. Instead, most are more like choreography, real popping slopping things of beauty in kinetic motion and coordination, ranging across wide fields of hand-to-hand combat disciplines with or without an equally wide variety of deadly instruments. In fact, as a conceit, the comparison is made explicitly here with ballet. As with the best action pictures, a lot depends on the setups and execution. In this movie the narrative setups may be lame but the execution is excellent. The action can be positively witty. For example, an early fight takes place in a knife store. Hey, why not? Smash the cases as you go, then rapidly hurl knives, what could go wrong? One guy dies with about seven of them stuck in his skull. Then there's one more thing with an ax. In another fight, in a room of all glass, Wick sets a land speed record for smashing through cases, and every burst of shattering glass, no matter how unlikely, is explosive and satisfying. My favorite might be another early one, with Wick on horseback in Manhattan. Horseback! The movie has a waxy metallic kind of look, with super-saturated nighttime colors and a kind of high-contrast glowing texture that's a little off-putting. Is that a film stock choice or something required for high-speed shooting at night? Too often it looks like a Guy Ritchie picture. I'm no expert on action movies but I will say Parabellum had a lot of the look and feel of the Raid movies. Maybe most action movies do now? Popcorn guy sources notwithstanding, I would still put them a little ahead of the two John Wicks I have seen (the third, or rather second, is on its way to me now from Netflix). Keanu Reeves is starting to show his age a little, 55 this year, but that doesn't matter much either. He's going to be doing this for a long time. Consider Liam Neeson. Meanwhile, Parabellum: for when you're in a kinetic mood.

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