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I Weep For Cinema

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)

The John Wick series has come out of nowhere to become one of the single greatest new series of modern action. With Keanu Reeves’ new second renaissance, this man can do no wrong, and is as some would say, “breathtaking”. 

John Wick 3 picks up right where 2 left off, and since it’s been a couple years, I kinda forgot exactly what happened. I probably should have gone back and watched the second movie again to get a good idea of why John is starting the third movie running for his life in the rain. I knew he basically had a contract put on him, but I couldn’t remember why.

Even with not remembering exactly why, it was easy enough to fall back into the world of John Wick. And with the higher than usual expectations, I did end up liking this much more than the second movie.

The John Wick series does something that most movies try to accomplish, but most go about it in the wrong way. Wick’s universe is filled with interesting lore, but the movie really doesn’t focus too much on it. It’s a living breathing world that already exists and allows you to catch up when it wants you to, but it will never hold your hand or give you long exposition dumps that grind most movies to a halt within the first 20 mins. That is the key to Wick… It just simply allows you to experience the action around you and builds upon everything in it’s own time frame.

With the third movie, they extra don’t give a crap about you knowing everything. You are expected to keep up and learn by inferring what is happening on screen. That makes the movie flow so much better. Where as most modern movies will hold your hand like a tutorial level in a video game, Wick is running at full force from the first frame. New characters who are integral to the plot show up, and you understand who they are, who they work for just from the dialog without beating you over the head with it.

John Wick also walks the fine line of hyper violence that is so prevalent in today’s action films. Ones that make us squirm in our seats by how realistic the fighting is, or how gory and uncomfortably grotesque each pop and crack of a bone or skull can look and sound. Back in 2014 this was relatively still new to cinema, with 2006’s Casino Royale being the first example that comes to mind. The fighting in Wick 3 is only very rarely agonizing, with the only example I can think of my wincing was in the beginning when Wick slowly pushes a knife into the upper slit of someone’s eye. Other than that, it’s a lot of crazy fast action that you feel, but doesn’t make you want to look away.

 I’m assuming this is mostly due to the digital blood that when used right just moves the action along without dwelling on it. One of the earliest examples that I remember was Live Free or Die Hard, where the digital blood was still new tech and was there mostly to get that PG-13 rating, but here in Wick 3, it’s used to convey death, but let’s Keanu run around without slipping on the several hundreds of gallons of blood that would be flooding the floor if practical effects were employed. 

One of the main reasons I think this movie is streets ahead of any other in it’s genre,  is the way that the action is filmed. I really noticed this in the middle of the movie, where John teams up with Storm to take out a whole city of thugs. Although there is a mild amount of shaky cam (something I despise with a passion) the action very rarely cuts away in the middle of what is taking place. Pick any movie within the last decade with large fight scenes and you will notice that for every 5 seconds of film there are roughly 20 edits and cuts within that five seconds. No action is able to actually be seen nor is it easy to follow.

 With Wick 3, each shot is held for what seems like almost an uncomfortable amount of time by today’s standards, and it MAKES these scenes easy to follow, fun to watch and enjoyable from the story of the fight’s standpoint. You can easily learn the story of: Guy jumps into frame and the fight begins, Wick throws several punches, bad guy dodges, bad guy throws several punches that land, Wick shakes it off and grapples bad guy, Wick pulls gun from belt holster, shoots guy in knee, tosses guy to ground, turns to run away, guy trips Wick, Wick grabs knife from shoe, stabs guy in tendon, picks gun up and double taps to the head…. All within one fluid shot without several cuts per second. It allows you to follow the choreography of the fight without playing tricks to make you think you are seeing more than there really is. This is something that Hollywood has relied way too heavily on for too long to the point that most fight scenes are nothing more than camera tricks and not much substance.

The friendships and loyalty of the various characters also bring a sense of honor that most movies would never even touch. Having all these assasins be cordial and polite in the face of death is something that is novel and played straight faced enough for it to still seem genuine. When the twins are admiring Wick, and after he defeats them, he allows them to live because there is that respect and honor between three professionals. If it’s done too often, there is a feeling that it wouldn’t be genuine and feel fake and fabricated to make it too much of “a thing”. But again, the Wick series walks that fine line, where it’s perfectly executed. 

I have no clue how my expectations were both so high, and also exceeded, but Wick 3 really does pull it off extremely well. With this series in full franchise mode now, I’m excited to see where this all goes. Obviously it sets up the war between the High Table and Underneath, and the semi-twist of Winston’s apparent betrayal… there is of course an ulterior motive and things going on underneath the surface. No matter where the next series takes place, it will absolutely be a ticket I can’t wait to be torn.