Third Miracle, by Bob Connally

19 May

John Wick: Chapter 2 left us on a massive cliffhanger two years ago with John (Keanu Reeves) being declared “excommunicado” for a murder committed on the grounds of the New York Continental hotel. Due to a long standing friendship, the Continental’s owner and manager, Winston (Ian McShane) gave John a one hour head start before the $14 million bounty went into effect. John Wick: Chapter 3 picks up with the hour almost up for John and his dog. Every contract killer around the world is aware of what’s about to happen, which in Winston’s view means, “the odds are about even.”

Not surprisingly, there are one or two killers in John’s vicinity who don’t respect the officially sanctioned one hour head start. The head start also prompts the High Table to send an adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon playing a character simply named in the credits as the Adjudicator) to punish Winston for not killing John instantly for his breach of the rules. He is given 7 days to vacate his position as manager of the Continental. This is about all of the plot setup needed to set Chapter 3 in motion.

Building on its predecessors, John Wick: Chapter 3 expands on the world John and the rest of these contract killers inhabit while delivering action scenes that we’ve never seen before. Sequence after sequence is full of inventive ways for John to kill people with some help from Halle Berry and her dogs. (For those of us still sad about John’s puppy, which is everyone, the dog action is quite satisfying.) Maintaining series continuity, screenwriter Derek Kolstad (with 3 credited co-writers this time) and director Chad Stahelski both return for their third go-round. Also of vital importance are cinematographer Dan Laustsen and film editor Evan Schiff, each returning from the second film.

Stahelski, Laustsen, and Schiff understand a key factor to creating outstanding action sequences that should be obvious to any filmmaker but strangely is often overlooked. They care that the audience can see what’s happening and that their brains can process it. Far too often action scenes are too darkly lit to be able to see them while constant frenetic edits are used to create the sense that what’s on screen is exciting without us being able to tell what it is. Who needs to create an exciting and memorable action sequence when we can just cut to a different angle every three quarters of a second?

John Wick: Chapter 3 is a film that any aspiring director, cinematographer, or editor should study. In spite of there being several scenes set either at night or in darkened interiors, they are perfectly visible to the audience. Shots are also held long enough for us to understand what’s going on in the scene. This connects us more to John and to feel the tension necessary for us to care. It also makes for a far more thrilling experience than we get from disorienting, headache inducing editing.

Once again, Keanu Reeves demonstrates that John Wick was the role he was born to play (along with Ted “Theodore” Logan). He conveys everything he needs to while saying very little. We understand his pain (keep in mind that the events of all three movies have occurred in the span of a few days) and the sense of controlled rage that drive him forward. His commitment to making us believe John’s expertise with any and every weapon (including a makeshift weapon he uses early on) is incredibly impressive. Halle Berry brings the same commitment to her role as an old ally of John’s who owes him a massive debt. Their scenes together are among the best in the film. There is also great fun in seeing the further development of Ian McShane’s Winston and Laurence Fishburne’s Bowery King.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is the thrilling continuation of this exceptional series you would have hoped for. The overall story is deepened in an interesting way and the final scenes of the film will have fans theorizing for some time to come. No one who enjoyed the first two John Wick films will come away disappointed here.

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