'John Wick 3' Is an Elegant Action Movie Masterpiece

Lisa Tate

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I know what everyone thinks happened in the latest Avengers, but it was an American "semi-retired" hitman who finally took down Thanos.

According to the weekend box office John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum took in around $57 million in North American sales, knocking Avengers: Endgame out of the number one spot.

That’s more than the opening week average of the first two installments of this epic gun-fu saga put together.

Actually, neither of the first two John Wick movies debuted at number one. When you think about how the second sequel in an R-Rated action movie franchise can de-throne the most hyped and anticipated Disney-market superhero movie of all time, it is an impressive feat.

I think I can tell you why I feel John Wick is such and appealing trilogy, and I’m going try to be as un-spoiler-y as possible here. I can’t promise anything, though, if you haven’t seen the third movie. Read on as you wish but remember: “Every Action Has Consequences.”

First, if you want visually appealing, and perfectly executed fight and chase scenes, get a stuntman to direct your films.

Director Chad Stahelski first worked with John Wick star Keanu Reeves on The Matrix, when he served as his stunt-double. Every fight scene is choreographed as carefully as a dance number, which martial arts can be when handled by the right person.

Both previous John Wick movies had their “stand out” fights. In the first movie, we learn how well a muscle car pairs with a gun when taking out an enemy. In the second, there’s the dreamy, eerie aesthetics of the art gallery mirror maze, as well as the sleek “battre pour deux” around the Roman fountain between Wick and Cassion (played by Common).

In this third film, which picks up right where John Wick 2 leaves off, these get cranked up to eleven, from the very first fight in the library, to the rapid-fire battle among cases of antique knives, to the final gun and martial arts bouts in The Continental where Wick goes full Baba Yaga.

There is also the standout battle in Casablanca, featuring the very adept hotel manager and ex-cohort of Wick’s, Sofia (Halle Berry), and her trained doggies that will leave you winded.

Second, there is an air of elegance to John Wick that isn’t always seen in R-rated action films.

I do like the grittiness of Die Hard, and the fun banter of buddy cop films like Lethal Weapon, but these are the business class models, compared with John Wick’s first class feel.

There are some very attractive women in this movie providing some eye candy for men, but there isn’t one obligatory “run through the topless bar scene,” or casual hook-up du jour that seems to be a given in most action films.

Instead, they concentrate on the look of the old-school way the underworld runs, with old Nokia type cell phones and rotary dial phones, as well as with the stylized subtitles for those very important phrases and comments we need to remember.

Although Wick himself has a preference for some amazing American muscle cars (you can never go wrong with a Mustang), the John Wick films bear a closer design to a nice Italian sports car, built for both beauty and speed.

Speaking of elegant, the Continental Hotel is like a character in itself. It is more than just a setting; it’s a destination. Although this is a place that excels in treating some very bad people very well, you wish you could make a reservation. It has its classic décor up front, but more and more layers (as well as overseas locations) are revealed each film.

The casting in these films is excellent. Alongside Wick in this latest chapter is the return of veteran actors Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne (Winston and the Bowery King respectively).

These are solid characters on their own, who are not just accessories or foils for Wick. They have their own plans, regardless what happens to everyone else.

Lance Reddick also gets to show us there is more to his character Charon than his upscale exterior as The Continental’s concierge. Angelica Huston and Mark Dacascos as also worthy additions to the story.

Image © LionsGate

Berry’s Sophia is the best of the new characters. She is a perfect action heroine who isn’t a one-dimensional femme fatale, nor is she your “I am woman” man-hater.

Her issues with Wick are very personal. Don’t expect her to be the “tagalong” buddy, nor romantic interest here. She is in the film for the time she is needed, has her moment to shine, and like others who cross Wick’s path, she goes on her way to deal with her own issues, which I have a feeling we may learn more about someday.

Another reason this third John Wick did so well is the stories have been consistently good.

Stahelski has directed all three, style and look remain consistent, and Wick’s creator (writer Derek Kolstad) stayed involved in the writing process.

Some action franchises have a great first movie, but start to fall off the rails in the storytelling process*. John Wick* however, just keeps being entertaining, as well as intelligently written. It is still flowing well like chapters in a good book as opposed to money-grabs in a film franchise.

Finally, there’s just something about the way Keanu Reeves carries this role, which just works for both men and women.

He’s tough, stoic, can handle every type of fire arm and knife there is (as well as a few other household items that come in handy as weapons), and he doesn’t try to remain a tidy and dapper pretty boy.

In this third film, he got plenty messed up — burnt up, cut up, shot up and tossed through glass. He even took the opportunity to do some low-level torture on himself, which caused an entire audience to “AAAHHH” in unison.

As for women, well, what isn’t to like? He can be sensitive, but not soft-hearted.

We get a little glimpse at this background in this third film, and can see how his raising turned him into a weapon. Yet, he was a happily married retired weapon, who was deeply in love with his wife, Helen…and apparently new life until her untimely death.

Remember, this whole vengeance fuse got lit because that little cockroach of a man, Iosef, stole his car and killed his puppy, a gift from the recently deceased Helen. Since that first tear-out-your heart incident near the beginning of the first movie, no dog is killed under Wick’s watch, nor has Wick found any peace.

I’ve always thought Reeves seemed like a genuinely nice guy, but never, ever thought he was attractive…until John Wick. When the heck did Keanu Reeves go from the dude who says “Whoa” to the man who makes women go “DAY-um?” Not that I’m complaining.

For me a good “chick flick” has unapologetically tough guys who can rock a fitted suit during a gun fight or hand-to-hand combat, be just a little bit superhuman in their abilities, be able to drop a well-placed verbal barb, and genuinely be intelligent.

In the past, I had to look across the pond at James Bond films and The Kingsmen for these, but John Wick has given me an international man of action based right here in America, and he is a glorious mess of a man.

Usually, by the end of a trilogy, I am happy to think, “Okay, if it wraps up here, I’m good.” With John Wick, I'm still ready to fork over my money for another good story.

John Wick 3 continues to meet the moviegoers' expectations. There aren't many action films that have had three consistently good films in a row.

I plan on seeing this again in the theater (which I rarely do) as I promised my teen I would take her to see this movie next week when school is out. I’m a good mom like that.

The theater is also on the way to the tailor where I’m picking up the black fitted suits I’m making my husband wear from now until May 21, 2021 for when John Wick 4 is tentatively set to premiere.

Header Image © LionsGate

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