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Bulletic
I took the first John Wick extremely seriously. Someone killed his dog so people had to die (I can live with that). In Chapter 2, things got a little highfalutin but in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM, the absurd became wildly comic. Camus revels in the delirium of cinematic violence.
 
  "I'm not looking for gore, I'm not looking for shock value, I'm not even looking for psychological torment. I'm just looking, okay, a guy gets stabbed in the eye because it's fragile. Any special forces guy, law enforcement, military knows the headshots are very, very prevalent in current gun work. So, we just do what normal people do real."
  Director Chad Stahelski*

 

Chad, for all of his directorial skills, action chops and narrative competency, seems to use the word 'normal' in a way that is a million miles from my own usage. But that's OK. He's talking about John Wick. Non sequitur alert. I'm a fan of cryptic crosswords. Not the nasty ones on the back page of the newspaper requiring degree level-plus general knowledge and brain bending fourth dimensional thought but the friendly ones that offer themselves up as easier based on the inclusion of the word 'quick' in their title. My all time favourite cryptic clue is 'Wicked (6)'. If you are a fellow aficionado of cryptic crosswords you will have worked out that the clue has nothing to do with vileness or immoral behaviour but is a simple adjective. What in the world is 'wicked'? A candle. Beautiful. May I offer another definition of the word 'wicked'? How about the physical state of having your head (in armour or not) being penetrated by multiple bullets so you die pretty much instantaneously by the hand of John Wick.

Hullo John! And welcome back.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

The original John Wick set up a bereaved ex-hitman whose grief-puppy was killed by Theon Greyjoy, (apologies but Game of Thrones casts a long shadow), actor Alfie Allen playing the son of the dominant crime family, Iosef Tarasov. If you believe you have power and want someone's car and are prepared to break into someone's home to effectively cripple the owner to steal it, there are several lessons to be learned from the first movie: Number one; don't love the car that much if the owner is a phenomenally renowned retired assassin. Number two; whatever you do, (seriously dude, whatever you do) do not murder the puppy his dead wife sent him posthumously as a cute, furry vessel of his profound grief. Number three; emigrate. Leave the planet. Or just shoot yourself because if you don't, someone is coming to do it for you. John Wick: Chapter Two was a little more high table assassin's club politics and therefore less interesting but hot on the heels of the excommunicated assassin comes Chapter Three and you have to experience this film with a very different aspect of mind than you may have done with the first two. John Wick: Chapter Three – Parabellum is a riot as in fricking hilarious. I'm pretty sure this was not the entire point of the first two but number three ups the comic chops ante to an absurd degree and is all the more pleasing for it. The mysterious word (if you Google it) comes up with an automatic weapon but 'para bellum' is Latin for the second post-comma part of "If you want peace, prepare for war.” Watching Parabellum, you have to re-align your suspension of disbelief and indeed your critical sensors. Movie watching, as we all know, is about the willing suspension of disbelief. Don't bother with that. Go in knowing the utter absurdity is part of the film's very DNA. It's more of a dance film with less can-can and way more bang-bang. Its choreography is off the chart (the Bolshoi needs to look over its shoulder) and despite its frenetic pace, the editor Evan Schiff allows us to watch the moves and does not create false ones in the cutting. It embraces the ridiculous, holds the cinematic "Are you kidding me?" crowd to account and invites an audience to enjoy it as a real life cartoon spectacle. There's not been a film with this much violent absurdity since 2007's Shoot 'Em Up. You cannot possibly take anything in this film seriously and that is its strength. The farce is strong with this one. It knows it's so over the top, it may as well be pantomime with added eye-stabbing. I am extremely sensitive to violence against eyes but I had been so wrapped up in enjoying Wick's accelerated carnage, that this particular scene didn't bother me one bit. It's all about your state of mind. In Prometheus, I was so peeved at the slack character work and ridiculous behaviour that I could no longer be scared. I was just mildly pissed off and therefore incapable of investing. You invest in John Wick in a subtly different way. He's the lead acrobat in a über-stylised, über-violent circus. Keanu Reeves is in his early fifties and the man performs with a physical grace and commitment that would make Tom Cruise up his game. With the exception of a couple of extremely nasty crashes through glass and a fall that would have resulted in death several times over, never mind the gunshot wounds, performed presumably by a stuntman and a digital avatar respectively, it's Keanu all the way. You only know it's a stuntman if you see his right foot not turn inwards. Keanu's signature body language is a right toe pointed to eleven o'clock whenever he walks or runs.

And do you care about these people? Not really. That's so far from the point, you're at the rubber. The MacGuffin (and I won't explain what this is for the umpteenth time) is that John wants a way to honour and remember his wife and therefore holds on to life as hard as he can. Along the way, he avoids certain death at certain times, travels to Casablanca (OK) and again avoids certain death there just to offer himself to certainly die in a desert unless he is rescued by a man whose life would be significantly less encumbered if John was actually dead. Metaphorical advice (from another Game of Thrones veteran, Bron, played by Jerome Flynn with a dodgy but acceptable Russian accent) leads him to be resurrected. Unlike his practical and worldly character in the afore-mentioned TV show, Mr. Flynn makes the egregious mistake of shooting something. OK, OK, it's a dog... Halle Berry, in a wonderful cameo-plus, makes him and many others pay for that rather dumb exhibition of power or childish spite (he wanted the dog, Halle didn't want him to have it). Be assured, the dog is coated in Kevlar and lives to rip out villains' and henchmen's balls another day.

If one were uncharitable, one might say that Parabellum is one fight scene or chase after another (there is a knife fight that elicited roars of laughter in the audience I watched it with. That had to be intentional). The uncharitable do not embrace what cinema can be. Cinema is fickle and profound, slight and weighty, shallow or burdened with glorious substance. If you want the experience of fickle, slight and shallow but unrelentingly entertaining, then John Wick: Chapter Three – Parabellum is the perfect choice for an evening out. And there is more than enough room for a film like Parabellum in the marketplace. While I may not be queuing up for a second visit, I had so much fun on my first that I felt it necessary to share it.

 


* https://www.slashfilm.com/chad-stahelski-interview/

John Wick 3: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

USA 2019
131 mins
directed by
Chad Stahelski
produced by
Basil Iwanyk
Erica Lee
written by
Derek Kolstad
Shay Hatten
Chris Collins
Marc Abrams
based on characters created by
Derek Kolstad
cinematography
Dan Laustsen
editing
Evan Schiff
music
Tyler Bates
Joel J. Richard
production design
Kevin Kavanaugh
starring
Keanu Reeves
Halle Berry
Ian McShane
Laurence Fishburne
Mark Dacascos
Asia Kate Dillon
Lance Reddick
Tobias Segal
Anjelica Huston

UK distributor
Lionsgate UK
UK release date
15 May 2019
review posted
2 June 2019

See all of Camus' reviews