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| 21 May 2019 | Reply

Directed by Chad Stahelski
Starring Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Lawrence Fishburne, Asia Kate Dillon, Anjelica Huston
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

If the second instalment of the ultra-violent fan favourite John Wick franchise expanded on the mythology of the murky underworld of assassins living by a strict code, a hotel/company headquarters called The Continental, and the legendary “bogeyman” John Wick who was forced from retirement after the death of his wife and murder of his puppy, then part 3 – subtitled “Parabellum”, Latin for “prepare for war” – gives us a tantalising glimpse into the titular assassin’s bizarre upbringing.

Keanu Reeves – now 54 – is in incredible form in a wildly physical role, fighting off a veritable army of killers trying to claim the 14 million dollar bounty now on his head, and his work in the exquisitely choreographed fight scenes can almost be described as balletic.

The John Wick films follow on immediately from one another – all three movies spanning only a short time period in that world – and Parabellum picks up exactly where JW2 finished: Wick has only 20 minutes grace before the bounty on his head, placed there for killing someone in The Continental – hallowed ground to this dark organisation – goes live and he is officially declared “excommunicado”.

“Every interested party in the city wants a piece of him,” Ian McShane’s Winston states early in the piece, “I’d say the odds are about even.”

Our bulletproof suit-clad anti-hero embarks on a self-preserving frenzy of violence that raised oohs, ahhs and even awkward giggles from our normally staid media screening audience, proving not only the inventiveness and style on the screen, but the investment we, as fans, have with the character and the franchise.

It’s easy for a film like this to be formulaic and dull, but lashings of classy style, a very dark sense of humour, and a graceful approach to the abundant violence ensure that it simply doesn’t have to be that way.

But as thrilling as the action is, there must be a plot, and there must be some respite from the relentless, often graphic violence – otherwise we’re no better than animals, and it really would get dull fast, no matter how inventive the violence is.

And so the filmmakers – already lauded for the world-building on show – take us even deeper, giving us a glimpse into a dysfunctional childhood to see Wick became such an adept killer, an archly wicked Anjelica Huston as the Director of the children’s home where he was raised, and Asia Kate Dillon as an Adjudicator from the company head office doling out disciplinary action on old favourites McShane, Lawrence Fishburne and Co. There’s no written warnings here, folks.

Halle Berry does a superb turn as the manager of the Casablanca branch of The Continental, and since dogs are so important in John Wick’s world, they’re made a specially big part of this episode in ways I won’t even begin to explain. Suffice to say canine fans will roar with approval, and needless to say John himself is impressed.

One way the franchise works so well is in its intelligent attention to detail. It’s there in little ways as well as big: flies exist and people brush them away, dogs need to drink water after exercise, sometimes it takes more than one bullet to kill someone, and the fight scenes are stunningly choreographed. We learn more about the company workings, the origins of the ancient gold coins this guild of assassins use as currency, and its mysterious Bedouin leader. Mark Dacoscos’s sushi chef assassin Zero is not only relentless, but a gushing fan of Wick’s, admitting to him in between bouts that it’s such an honour to even be fighting him. The supporting cast and clever writing are paramount to the success of these films.

John Wick is a brooding kind of hero: there are few witty one-liners after a fight, he’s more the strong, silent type. Tom Cruise may be lauded as the biggest action star in the world today, but Keanu Reeves is more relatable any day of the week. With news that the filmmakers and Reeves are

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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