glenn criddle | cynical celluloid | june 2019
John Wick returns in an immediate follow up from the previous chapter as he's now removed from the guild and its protection having broken the rules. With deadly assassins coming out of the woodwork to collect the bounty on his head he has to call in some favors in an attempt to survive the High Table's quest for revenge.
John Wick has proved to be immensely popular. It's a no messing about, super-violent fantasy of revenge and a shadowy underground of assassins all presented in a neon palette and filled with the kind of brutality that DC have only scratched the surface on; only here, it fits. The entire series, now adapted into an actual comic book, has very little in the way of full characters, being as they are kind of functional elements of what's going on rather than complex characters, much like Bond characters in fact and again, that's perfectly fine here; there's little need to overcomplicate things. This is where the strength of the John Wick series comes from, it's a very simple affair done well.
With Keanu Reeves back in the lead the movie drops straight back into the action and make no mistake, if you missed part two this will be a bit of a head-spinner for you, it'll be like being dropped into the middle of a TV series at season three. So the first recommendation is to watch the other two before this. To those who have, John Wick 3 will be unsurprising and that's because it's pretty much more of the same. There's overkill after overkill, the over-endurance of injury and dogs – of course, there are dogs. The whole affair generally bounces around at a decent pace and the action scenes flow well with decent breathers in between that allow the audience to relax for a few minutes while furthering the small but perfectly functional story. It's not much of a story, but it is efficient and just about complete enough to work by giving purpose to the madness.
I find it hard to be as excited about the film series as some are but it is a lot of fun to be had with a decent degree of humor, though I'm starting to feel that the thin narrative is beginning to show signs of strain of being drawn out over such a long stretch. Even with the other entries, it always felt like the films were stretched out a bit, not quite to breaking strain, but not far off and by the time the credits began to roll, I was ready to go. This film is 131 minutes long and for me, it could have done with being 15 minutes shorter, something it could have easily been. For all of this relatively tepid sounding response, I also have to say that there is enough here to have fun with. The film takes itself just seriously enough to keep it from feeling as utterly ridiculous as it is while the utterly ludicrous violence is so over the top that it provokes laughter as often as it does gasps and I'm absolutely fine with this. It dances around with its underpants on its head while wearing a neatly tailored suit.
At the heart of this film is Keanu Reeves, an actor who falls into that niche of actors who more or less plays the same character every time, like Sean Connery or Bruce Campbell, and bless him for it, he does it well. Reeves is always a treat to have on the screen and that he seems to be one of the most decent and respectable people in Hollywood does him a lot of service in these films. He's able to do extraordinary things on screen and still feel like a relatable character even when the script is basic. Take for instance the fact that this journey of John Wick involves him as a professional killer who's prompted into this war because his dog was killed. It's ludicrous but Reeves makes it believable enough, especially because he's famously a genuinely lovely guy. With any other lead this film would likely feel flat, Reeves puts so much effort into this, particularly with his drive to do as much of the stunts and fighting himself, something that has characterized his career, and that effort shines through in the movie.
John Wick has also managed to maintain a strong style from the directorial approach to the lighting, the set design and the cinematography. It's created a comic book style world in the way that DC should be deeply jealous of for its look and feel. It's dark but has vibrant color while also allowing us to see what's going on; it's stylish and it doesn't look dreary, especially in the glass room scene which is magnificent.
It's really the sheer enthusiasm, not just from Reeves, but from everyone involved, that gives this film so much energy and it's why, despite my stated reservations, that I can recommend this film. It's an over-the-top, ludicrous and most importantly, fun film that keeps an admirably straight face under the most ridiculous of circumstances. Sure it's all style over substance but that's just what I needed on this occasion and John Wick 3 is really, really stylish.
He's British so forgive the extra U's and the use of the letter S instead of Z. If there's one thing that typifies Glenn's writing it's the 'Video Nasties,' a long list of movies that offended all and sunder during the 1980s in the UK. It's those seemingly offensive fringes of cinema that informed his writing on cinema and the more political area of censorship with a more sympathetic approach to those films that push the limits of taste. But don't worry, he does talk about normal stuff too and isn't likely to go off on a horror movie fuelled rampage.