It is difficult to make a film that appeals to auteurs and casual movie-goers alike, big franchises occasionally court the artistic crowd, and the more niche films will make a play for the mainstream crowd.
The first John Wick was such a film, with its blend of audience-drawing violence, and well-worn revenge narrative, and using stylised visuals and tight cinematography to catch the eye of those that would usually pass it by. It was rewarded with a generous box-office return, and interest in future instalments.
Obviously a sequel materialised as here we are with the third entry in the series, and John Wick continues to not take a step backwards.
Immediately following the events of Chapter 2, John Wick is ‘excommunicado’ from the Continental, and has a $14 million bounty on his head. He must use all of his brains and Braun if he wants to out-run the High Table.
Director Chad Stahelski, and the John Wick series in general, continues to be a master of the close-up fight scene.
The film barely lets you in the door and you’re straight into its balls-to-the-wall action that now typifies the series.
The merits in its action choreography is in its variety. It creates a primordial soup if guns-blazing action, and hand-to-hand martial arts, showing its respect for the merits of both, while blazing its own trail.
There are a few stand-out fight scenes in the film, one early one sees John Wick out-numbered and under-utilised against a gang of highly effective martial artists, a later one sees him fighting his way through hordes of henchmen, assisted by a few canine companions.
Not only are the styles varied, but they’re incredibly enjoyable, and visceral. The hand-to-hand fights are brutally intense, choreographed to make Wick seem like a bad-ass, but also showing his vulnerability, finding a nice, rarely-seen middle ground of an almost impervious lead character, who also seems like he could lose at any moment.
The direction is in line with the first two films, served up by the same director, its noir palate is once again evident, but with dashes of our beloved variety to make it still seem fresh. Chapter 2 took us to Rome for a change of scene, Chapter 3 takes us further afield, giving us a new playground of warfare to play in.
Stahelski’s use of bright vibrant colours against a backdrop of violence has always been a series highlight, and his eye for an eye-catching fight scene has not diminished. In a tip of the hat to the previous entry, the fight in a mirrored room is taken to a delightful new level, a new level with more death and peril, obviously.
The acting has never really been the focal point of this series. Keanu carries the film on his unique charisma, he’s not what you’d call Shakespearean, but he carries the quiet bad-ass aura with more aplomb each time he dons the suit, trusted to look cool in some intense high-octane action, in which he excels, but doesn’t push him far from his comfort zone.
Elsewhere, it’s a story of varying accents and even more varying degrees of scene-chewing, Ian McShane continues to be delightful as Winston, and Laurence Fishburne is doing his best to dominate every scene he’s in (although I still maintain he’s basically doing a Samuel L Jackson impression) all the actors carry their characters with the required degree of convincingness, creating a rich world of characters without ever over-shadowing John Wick himself.
Overall then, fans of the series will be glad to hear that the series continues to be ambitious and stylish. Also delivering the series’ trademark stylistic violence with growing scope, it’s another wonderful trip into John Wick’s world, with all the piles of bodies that brings with it.