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3 ½ (out of 4)
Finally attaining the breadth of frenzied hysteria and hysterics this film series intended from the start, the third John Wick installment is an individually dynamite action picture systematically outdoing its predecessors and establishing a fresh benchmark in stunt perfectionism for today's genre enthusiasts. Of course, if you prefer sensible storytelling over violent skirmishes you most likely already don't look favorably upon Wick or any blockbusters of the same ilk.
But scrutizing plot is wasted effort in this context and anticipating narrative innovation is misguided when one's focus should be fixed on the particulars of editing, choreography, stuntwork and set design – with uncompromising action thrillers, story usually does and should fade into the aesthetics of staggering blockbuster filmmaking, assuming there’s someone proficient behind camera. When your central premise is the most unbeatable assassin returning from retirement for a cascading series of absurdly brutal scenarios and new emotional motivations, the propulsion better be one more of feeling than logic. As much as Chapter 3 doesn’t necessarily solve persisting genre clichés – one-by-one henchmen attack plans or the elasticity of movie physics – this series already sits as the modern measure of action film greatness.
The first Wick was a blistering, left-field gem, now standing as a downplayed action classic. The sequel posited impressive improvements on the finer fringe details of the assassin-verse but regrettably threw the combat switch from thrill to overkill. Parabellum lands in a firm middle-ground, reaffirming the original's brazen tongue-in-cheekiness and reverting the violence to a kinetic, outlandish fun house. The sheer amount of RPG headshots isn't as thoroughly numbing as last time and the sense of visual clarity and opulence has never been more uniformly crisp. Bourne has been forgotten and Bond has been the sight of every kind of reinvention process – only Mission: Impossible and Fast & Furious hold relevancy to the genre and each are two movies away from completion. John Wick had humble beginnings and expertly earned its cult following, critical raves and exponential box office numbers. Who knows where this crazy train ends but the views so far have been uncommonly spectacular.
Collecting the memorable antagonists from the Raid franchise – Yayan Ruhien and Cecep Arif Rahman – as merciless number twos to Zero, the deadliest fanboy on the planet (Mark Decascos), the Wick series reaffirms its genre cred and impossible niche in another martial arts/neo-noir hybrid brimming with gun-fu freak-outs and practical choreography tutorials. Ballet ties into its basic but functional themes on the harmonic relationship between art and pain – the exploration of the elegance of movement is at the core of John Wick 3, crystallizing the film and franchise within their own artistically justified heights. If lustrous final boss battles and antique knife fights bring us closer to the savage audiovisual poetry absolving us of our restrained recklessness, so be it. Chapter 4 will suitably raise the stakes, break the rules and have us laughing and/or gaping in awe once again – topping Parabellum's slew of sick opening set pieces and the algorithmically orchestrated climax will be a marvelous challenge.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
It Chapter Two,
"So what've you been up to?"
"Escaping mostly... and I escape real good."
- Inherent Vice