I Hate Mondays Chapter 3 (John Wick 3: Parabellum, 2019)

John_Wick_3_Parabellum_PosterJohn Wick was one of those suprirse franchises.  I went into the first film with low expectations…and had a great time with a basic revenge action film.  I was sure that John Wick Chapter 2 would be the failed follow up and instead it turned out to be even a little better than the first.

So, does John Wick 3: Parabellum keep the momentum?

For the most part? A big yes.

Picking up directly on the heels of Chapter 2, there is a bounty put on Wick’s head and he is essentially excommunicated from the elite assassin community he had originally sought to get out of in the first place.  But now it is a matter of survival.  And Wick plans to go to the top. But his situation now means he cannot get any help from the support network he has had access to previously.  This puts him in a situation where he spends much of the first act without guns.

But then, this is the trick of John Wick.  Anything is a weapon in the hands of John Wick…anything. Take away the simplest and most obvious weapons?  He will figure it out.

The weakest part of the film is that the film does not expand on the existing mythology in a way that is terribly interesting.  The auditor who arrives to hold everyone who has helped Wick to account is okay, but I found the people above her less impressive.

On the other hand, the assassin fights are a lot of fun.  And Mark Dacascos is highly entertaining as Wick’s direct opponent during the third act. The action choreography is a wild watch, especially some of the earliest confrontations.

The casting of these films is impressive.  Every character, even the most minor, feel like the actor was cast with a serious intent. And the new additions, such as Halle Barry, are great.

One of the things that make the Wick films so enjoyable is that the action is pretty easy to follow.  The fact that all three films were directed by Chad  Stahelski is a strong argument for keeping a single visionary at the helm for a franchise.  While not quite as good as John Wick Chapter 2, this film is a strong follow up that means the franchise has yet to truly falter.

I Hate Mondays Chapter 2 (John Wick Chapter 2, 2017)

john_wick_2_posterWhen we last left John Wick…he was still working to get his car back.  And after a very crazy and intense fight to do so, he heads home.  He buries his weapons, planning to quietly slip back into retirement.  But instead, his actions have come to the attention of Santino D’Antonio, to whom Wick owes a favor…and seeing how John left retirement, he is determined to cash it in.

John refuses and Santino handles it badly.  A visit to Winston lets John know he has to honor the debt…but after the debt? John is in the clear to get back at Santino.  And so John goes off to Italy to complete the mission…and…well, let’s just say his day goes from bad to severely life threatening.

John Wick Chapter 2 picks right up and never lets up.  Even the quiet moments feel like they are a build up to something intense.  As hit men rain down on Wick, he is constantly on guard.  Every corner reveals a new threat.  This gets amusing, such as one scene where Wick and Cassian (played by rapper and actor Common) are walking through a train station, from a distance trying to shoot each other (but carefully missing the people around them).

Many of the hit men are brief roles, yet the film gives them each unique and personal styles suggesting a backstory (we will never get).  Director Chad Stahelski returns with the second installment and it pays off.  John Wick Chapter 2 takes the best parts of the first film and amplifies them.

As before, the action is extremely well choreographed and the story kept very tight.  Rather than start to give the film to much more background, as sequels are prone to do, it follows the rule of “Keep It Simple”.  This really works in Chapter 2’s favor.

And finally, the film is clearly set for a Chapter 3…and the final moments of Chapter 2 hint that it will be quite a thrill ride.

I Hate Mondays Chapter 1 (John Wick, 2014)

John_Wick_PosterJohn Wick is having a bad day.  A really bad one.  This is the gist of the film.  John Wick is mourning the death of his wife.  He is gassing up his car one day when some punks express interest his car.  That night, they break in, assault John, hurt his dog and steal his car.

One little thing…John Wick is a notorious hitman.  He is the boogeyman hitmen tell each other about.  Wick had retired, but now he has a mission.  That mission is to get his car back…but that means a whole lot of people are going to meet untimely ends.

John Wick is an action film with no aspirations to be anything else.  Wick is a very simple character in a post-Taken world.  He has a very special skill set and connections to a very dangerous community. This works in the film’s favor, as it makes it pretty easy to go along with the outlandish action sequences.

I have long argued that the key to a good Keanu Reeve performance is a character who might be smart, but is generally clueless about the plot.  And admit it…most of his most memorable performances involve kind of clueless characters.

Not John Wick.  Wick knows who he is, what he wants and how to do it.  And it is pretty exciting to see him do it.  The fights are tightly choreographed and eye catching.  Reeves maintains a strong presence considering the fact that there is not much to the character.  This is a lean action film full of characters with no real complexity.  Each character has a specific role and they play it well.  The film does not give you a lot of background to many characters…instead it allows the actors to bring a certain amount of their own presence.  Ian McShane gives the “Overlord” Winston instant gravitas, while Lance Reddick’s Charon carries a real weight of quiet authority.

This is director Chad Stahelski’s directorial debut.  He was primarily a stunt coordinator/choreographer who has done some assistant director work…but for a debut film, Stahelski does a pretty solid job.  Probably the biggest knock against the film is the choice to view the entire film through a blue tint, which can get annoying at times.

John Wick is a strong debut for a first time director and a good start to what has become a franchise.

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