dir: Chad Stahelski
Lots of thirsty people may disagree, and disagree strongly, but there is really no reason for this flick to exist. There’s no need for it.
If you like watching Keanu Reeves get repeatedly beaten up, stabbed and shot beyond the point where even a cyborg would pack it in, and also like watching him kill thousands of people, there are already two John Wick flicks in which all that happens. The singular attraction has to be one, or the other, or both, I guess. In this Chapter 3, even more people try to kill John Wick, and that’s about as complicated as it gets. All the story that was ever going to be told was told in the first one, where an idiot attacks a man, steals his car, kills his dog, only to realise when it’s too late that the person he wronged was the world’s most lethal assassin. That would make any man slap his forehead and utter a hearty “D’oh!”
The second one has a scumbag force John Wick to kill someone which then results in him having to kill hundreds of other people. And there’s a dog, but this time it survives. Yay doggo!
The third one has two more dogs but also the whole world wanting to kill the unkillable John Wick, who somehow keeps surviving because none of these super assassins ever thought to maybe just shoot him from a distance with a sniper rifle. Every super assassin just keeps wandering up to him, patiently waiting for their turn to die.
Oh, there’s no doubt they take their pound of flesh from Wick in exchange for violently being sent to their eternal reward, because he never changes his outfit, or his appearance, which is usually blood-soaked, or his carefully manicured beard. In fact, he does nothing to be less recognisable. It’s almost like he wants to get spotted so he can kill more people. But otherwise, he just keeps on keeping on.
To emphasise the cartoonish nature of the world in which these films occur, people pretend to have these other jobs, like sushi chefs or cab drivers, but absolutely everyone that appears in these movies is part of this less-than-mysterious crime underworld, or criminal overworld, I can’t really tell. Every single person Wick bumps into is somehow part of it. It’s almost like it’s the paranoid delusions of a schizophrenic who thinks everyone is out to get him, except he’s right, everyone does want to kill him.
The world as depicted here is so bizarre that I started to suspect in the second film that there’s was going to be some supernatural explanation for all these shenanigans, like, everyone is dead and all this crap is happening in hell or something. But I continue to go unsatisfied, because it’s still somehow meant to be the world we live in, just more stabby and shooty, with nothing to explain how a person can kill thousands of people for reals and yet no-one else notices.
I mean, who cleans up the bodies? Who organises the funerals? Who sends flowers to the widows and parentless orphans? Surely they don’t just disappear automatically like bodies in video games over time?
When John Wick demands to speak to someone’s manager, he is told the only way he’ll be able to speak to the Elder who runs the entire crime empire through the High Table, is if he wanders out into the desert until he can wander no more, and then maybe the Elder will deign to speak to him.
How’s that meant to work? Which part of the desert? It’s a big place. Does the guy just teleport you up or something? And does it mean that John will wander around for hours potentially not killing people every three seconds? How will he handle the withdrawals?
As directions go, that’s pretty …non-specific. It does not help that these terrible directions are delivered by a chap using a terrible Italian accent, someone who usually sounds like a Cockney bootblack, being Jerome Flynn, best known as Bronn from Game of Thrones. Here, in his very pointless cameo, he uses an accent you would expect to hear in a shitty pasta sauce commercial, plus he also sounded sarcastic, so I thought he was bullshitting. But he does try to kill a dog, so I guess he brings the bastardry the film was lacking up to that point.
Whatever allies John might have had in the earlier flicks become sort-of enemies in this one when a $14mil bounty is put on his head. I might not be remembering it right, but I think in the second one they put a bounty of $7mil on his head; a bunch of people tried and failed to kill him. So with double the money presumably they’ll try doubly hard to off the chap. Before, they weren’t giving it their all.
These are actions films, I guess, so we’re not meant to be watching for the performances or the dialogue, I guess. The thing these flicks have taught me is that it is entirely possible for me, a life long lover of trashy action flicks, to become bored by action scenes. This flick has adequately choreographed action scenes where John fights multiple people at the same time, and then endlessly repeats and extends those scenes past the point where anyone could really care.
Fight scenes, great or memorable fight scenes, have a rhythm to them, not just in the trading of blows or the who gets hit when – they have almost a melody and a story like a song. Some songs, like in the genre of music I favour, where the band members may or may not imbibe of certain substances and get absolutely fucked up out of their minds and start playing endless droning music (bands like Earth, Sleep, early Monster Magnet), you listen to a slab of music which could go for five minutes or four hours, and you’d have no clue as to whether it should be shorter, or longer, or what you’d change, and they don’t know either.
Many of these sequences here play out like that. Some of them start out thrilling, but the feeling of repetition, the dragging out of the inevitable means the energy flags. We know the literal waves of faceless enemies are not going to kill John Wick, because nothing except having to take a shower can probably kill him, and yet we have to sit through hours of John killing people who aren’t smart enough to do something different from the person before them. In what’s meant to be the climactic action scene, a group of the best of the best wearing motorcycle helmets and bulletproof suits attack John in the sanctity of the Continental, the weird hotel where people pay for things only with krugerrands, and after shooting them a few times he then realises that after he shoots them a few more times and they get disoriented, he has to lift their helmets a bit and then shoot them in the neck in order to kill them. After this eureka moment, we have to watch him do it at least 1500 more times. Three times is enough for us to get it. Eight times is tiresome. And yet it continues.
In a different fight in a place mostly made of glass, assassin thugs grab John and throw him into a glass - I dunno – thing? Installation, maybe. There’s a whole row of them, two rows, in fact. You can see where this is going, probably. So after they throw him into the first one, they have to throw him, in a strangely OCD way, into every single one of the others, and John just waits patiently for them to do it before he starts to fight back. It’s as clumsy as it sounds. There’s a lot of clumsiness on display.
There’s a whole sequence in Morocco where dogs fight back against their human oppressors, and we see two CGI dogs continuously taking down bad guys, and this went on for like twenty minutes. The first time you might be surprised, but what are we meant to feel the 30th time we see the same thing play out?
I am not claiming to know what the right length of time is for these scenes. I’m not an editor, nor do I know anything about film making. I know heaps about film watching, though. I’ve got that market cornered. No one, in the history of film watching, has watched films more adequately than I have. Watching John Wick kill thousands of people gets tiresome after two hours. And the fact that they immediately open the film up to a further sequel at the end makes me wish someone had just killed him at the end of the first one. The ‘surprise’ twist at the end made absolutely no sense, nor did John’s survival (unless they reveal in the 4th Chapter that he is actually an immortal Russian Jesus or something) after falling off a fucking building, but at least these shmucks keep getting work. Ian McShane is an actor I love, but, man, was he phoning it in on this one. I literally mean there are scenes where he sounds like he’s been put on hold by Centrelink or is answering questions like it’s the umpteenth time he’s been asked.
One strange bright spot is the presence of an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) who represents the High Table, which must truly be the most diabolical piece of Ikea furniture available. They swan around New York with everyone being absolutely shit scared of them. I thought, given how everyone in this is an assassin, that they were conserving their strength for the big finish where John Wick’s head exploded or something, but everything they achieve is based on their diamond sharp line delivery and an icy glare that could probably kill if you’re not careful. If you’re wondering why I’m playing the pronoun game, I discovered that the actor identifies as non-binary and prefers they/their, and I have no problem with that. They are pretty extraordinary in a film drowning in ordinary.
Will I watch the 4th one when it comes out? Inevitably. But I will watch it the same way I’ve watched all of these deeply dumb movies; in a hotel room when work has forced me to travel interstate entirely against my will. And I’m prejudging the experience as well. John Wick is going to have to fight a fucking killer dolphin in the next one for me to care the slightest bit.
6 times that once you’ve watched one John Wick movie, then you’ve watched all 4 out of 10
“All of this for what? Because of a puppy?
- “It wasn't just a puppy.” – it was a pretty great puppy though – John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum