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In Theaters: JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM (2019)

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JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM
(US - 2019)

Directed by Chad Stahelski. Written by Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins and Mark Abrams. Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Barry, Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane, Anjelica Huston, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Tobias Segal, Said Taghmaoui, Jerome Flynn, Jason Mantzoukas, Cecep Arif Rahman, Yayan Ruhian, Margaret Daly, Randall Duk Kim, Robin Lord Taylor, Boban Marjinovic, Susan Blommaert, Unity Phelan, Roger Yuan. (R, 131 mins)

An unexpected sleeper hit in theaters in 2014 after being given an 11th hour reprieve from VOD excommunicado, JOHN WICK provided Keanu Reeves with another iconic character that's single-handedly carried him through an otherwise rough career patch: a retired hit man who walked away from his old life to be with the woman he loved, unleashed as vengeance personified after the son of his former employer steals his car and kills his puppy Daisy, the final gift given to him by his wife before she succumbed to cancer. 2017's JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 was even better--a gonzo, comic-book-inspired actiongasm that cranked up the stakes, the inventive world-building, and ended with its hero embarking on a run for his life with seemingly the entire world in pursuit. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM (that title's a bit of a mouthful) opens just seconds after the ending of CHAPTER 2 as Wick, branded "excommunicado" by the High Table of the organization after killing double-crossing Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) on the consecrated grounds of the NYC branch of the hotel-for-assassins The Continental, is given a one-hour head start by Continental manager Winston (Ian McShane) before a $14 million mark is opened on Wick and offered to every professional assassin in the world.






Unable to get out of the city and dodging bullets, knives, and various other lethal weapons everywhere he goes, Wick calls in a favor and seeks safe passage from The Director (Anjelica Huston), a Russian ballet instructor and enigmatic figure from his past. Meanwhile, the High Table sends The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), an ice-cold problem-solver whose job is to enforce appropriate punishment to any of those who aided Wick in his escape, including Winston and The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), both of whom are given seven days to get their affairs in order before they're relieved of their duties. The Director gets Wick on a boat to Morocco, where he visits the Casablanca branch of the Continental, run by former colleague Sofia (Halle Berry). This leads to a meeting in the desert with a High Table elder (Said Taghmaoui), who offers Wick his freedom if he goes back to NYC and eliminates Winston, who's been deemed unreliable after failing to properly handle the D'Antonio debacle. Waiting in NYC is Zero (Mark Dacascos sighting!), a sushi chef and ambitious assassin ordered by The Adjudicator to kill Wick.





With Reeves and director Chad Stahelski returning, there's certainly a nice, lived-in feeling of comfort with the increasingly complex world of JOHN WICK. But like almost all franchises on its third go-around, CHAPTER 3 does start feeling like it's spinning its wheels at times. Derek Kolstad, the screenwriter of the first two films, is also back, but there's three additional credited writers, a telling indicator of how cluttered and structurally chaotic this often seems. After an electrifying opening half hour, the repetition starts creeping in, and there's only so many ways Wick can blast a bad guy in the head at point blank range before it starts to become a blur (Stahelski seems particularly indebted to Gareth Evans' THE RAID 2, right down to the presence of Cecep Arif Rahman and Yayan Ruhian as two of Zero's chief flunkies). But just because it isn't as fresh and inspired as its predecessors doesn't mean there isn't a lot to enjoy: the knife fight is terrific; a long gun battle with Wick, Sofia and her two loyal, ass-kicking, crotch-biting dogs vs. the army of Casablanca crime boss Berrada (Jerome Flynn) could almost be its own stand-alone short film; an amusing shout-out to Andrei Tarkovsky; an eye-piercing that's right up there with Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE; Lance Reddick as the NYC Continental's unflappable concierge getting to blast shotguns as he helps Wick take on some of Zero's guys; and Dacascos has a lot of fun as Zero, who's assigned to kill Wick but can't stop being a gushing fanboy whenever he's in his presence (and he gets not one, but two opportunities to remind Wick "You see? We're the same!"). But after a pair of creative, inventive action sagas, CHAPTER 3 is still enjoyable but the fatigue is there. The stylish elements and the colorful look just feel recycled from CHAPTER 2, the whole Casablanca detour doesn't serve much of a narrative purpose other than bloating the running time (and Berry's role is little more than an extended cameo), and the increasingly epic nature of the action sequences necessitate using more noticeable and less convincing CGI as a crutch as the JOHN WICK franchise starts resorting to FAST & FURIOUS-esque silliness. The door is left open for an inevitable CHAPTER 4, so I'm predicting here and now that John Wick will be in space or at the very least battling a cyborg by CHAPTER 6.



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