By Jason Inocencio
It has been lamented in recent years that action movies seem to have gone extinct. For all the gregariousness and loudness of films starring Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Willis, and their ilk from the 1980s to the 1990s, audiences eventually grew tired as the actors got older. Yet older actors took the cudgels for action films, revitalizing the careers of Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington in the process while keeping Tom Cruise in the spotlight. Twenty years ago, The Matrix combined science fiction with martial arts to bring life back to the genre with Keanu Reeves at the heart of it all. In 2014, Reeves returned to the action scene with another groundbreaking film in John Wick. For the third installment, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Reeves’ titular former assassin goes from hunter to hunted, as he is classified as that dreaded word in their circles: excommunicado.
Picking up immediately from the events of 2017’s John Wick: Chapter 2, the injured Wick (Reeves) broke the policy of the High Table by killing someone on the grounds of the New York City Continental. Winston (Ian McShane), the hotel’s manager, gave Wick time to escape before the edict is declared, and John has to gather his wits before all of the assassins in New York are allowed to hunt him down for a bounty of $14million.
Scrambling as the deadline hits, Wick finds the Director (Anjelica Huston) a woman with connections to the Russian underworld and seeks passage to Casablanca because he reveals himself to be of Belarusian heritage. As John travels to Morocco, an adjudicator from the High Table (Asia Kate Dillon) approaches both Winston and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), informing both that they have seven days to give up their respective seats of authority for previously assisting Wick. The adjudicator recruits Zero (Mark Dacascos) and his students to enforce the will of the High Table and kill Wick.
In Casablanca, John finds Sofia, a former assassin and manager of the Casablanca Continental. Collecting on another debt owed him, John convinces Sofia to set up a meeting with Berrada (Jerome Flynn) someone who can connect Wick with the Elder of the High Table (Said Taghmaoui). Even as things blow up with Berrada, Sofia still helps John get to the dessert, where the Elder finds him and approves removal of the excommunicado designation if John will kill Winston. Can John turn his back on one of the few friends he has left or will he take on all the forces of the High Table by himself?
At 54-years-old, Reeves may seem a bit old to be starring in an action film series such as this. However, if 60-somethings like Denzel Washington and Liam Neeson have proven at the box office, it’s that as long as the action has good choreography and the star brings the intensity, age is nothing but a number in this genre.
Director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad reunite with Reeves after the first two films to chronicle the latest chapter in the life of the retired assassin dragged back to become what he does best. For this third film, Reeves has several memorable action sequences using weapons beyond mere guns but also including knives, daggers, and swords of different lengths to great effect. His opponents also vary from Chinese hoods on the streets of New York, to a Serbian giant in a public library, to Moroccan thugs in Casablanca, to Japanese ninja and Thai hitmen inside a hotel. The various fighting forms manage to show Wick’s capacity to cause and deal pain in ways usually seen in different movies, not one combination platter such as this.
Even Halle Berry, also in her 50s, gets to fight and side-by-side with two Belgian Malinois hounds at her beck and call. Yet the best lines get to be delivered by Dacascos as sushi chef/assassin Zero. Twenty-four years after first starring in Crying Freeman, Dacascos gets to cut loose with some memorable moves as he both tries to impress and kill Reeves’ Wick. For his part, Reeves, again dressed in suits in every scene, showed how different his Wick is from action stars of a previous vintage. Whereas Arnold, Sly, or Bruce might have had some witty remark upon unleashing hell, Keanu merely moves on to the next adversary, too busy trying to survive to be funny. When he does deliver a funny line, it almost seems accidental and so sincere that the audience can’t help but laugh.
Clearly, Stahelski, Kolstad, and Reeves know a good thing when they see it, and the conclusion of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum demands a fourth film. After topping Avengers: Endgame at this past weekend’s box office, and after exploring some of John Wick’s origin story here, the movie-going audience are not quite through yet with this story.
About the Author:
Jason Inocencio was once the Digital Editor of adobo magazine who still loves seeing great campaigns from all over the world. He proudly shows off his love for all kinds of geeky things, whether it be movies, TV shows, comics, sports, or trivia.