Indian Country Today’s Native Nerd (that’s me) had an early invite to review the latest of the John Wick Chronicles, John Wick 3: Parabellum. For many years I have been an off and on fan of Keanu Reeves, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to let go of his “Don’t go below fifty!’ phrase that he shouted at the bus driving Sandra Bullock years ago in the action movie Speed.
But as far as John Wick goes, Keanu Reeves is portraying one of my favorite characters in modern action films. I will be revealing spoilers to the first film, but I will warn you before revealing anything from John Wick 3: Parabellum below.
A bit of background on Keanu Reeves
According to IMDb, the internet movie database — the film industry’s biggest and most reputable website with a massive collection of facts, rankings, and money-making efforts of films and stars — lists Keanu’s ancestry as this:
Keanu Charles Reeves was born in Beirut on September 2, 1964, the son of Patricia (née Taylor), a costume designer and performer, and Samuel Nowlin Reeves, Jr. His mother is English and hails from Essex. His father, an American from Hawaii, is of Chinese-Hawaiian, English, Irish and Portuguese descent.
In his mashup of ancestry, there is a bit of Indigeneity. Rock and roll.
I am not certain how many of you readers have heard much about Reeves, but in his movie The Matrix, he donated his earnings to all of the special effects / CGI staff making them all instant millionaires. I have read many additional instances of stories where Reeves went out of his way to show kindness to fans, paid for their meals at restaurants and so much more.
Reeves deserves the success of John Wick. I got nothing but love for you Keanu.
A bit of background on John Wick
The saga began three movies ago, when Wick, a veritable assassin of sorts, attempts to retire from the High Table — an Illuminati-type organization run by its own set of elitist rules — something never before done.
John Wick is living a peaceful life after the death of his beloved wife, who in one of her last acts, gives John Wick a cute little puppy. The puppy is killed by enemies of John Wick, who ventures back into his once dark world. “They killed my puppy” became a viral meme on the internet.
Let the shooting begin. Continue this trend into John Wick 2 and 3. Prepare to love every minute of it if you like over the top, wildly-choreographed, ridiculously-bloody and bullet shell-flying films. John Wick will continue to deliver.
John Wick 3: Parabellum - or should I say, John Wick 3: Shoot every person in the cerebellum.
John Wick 3 begins exactly at the moment John Wick 2 ended. John Wick still had the bleeding wound in his lower gut, bloody cuts and scratches all over his face, and he was still running with an hour to go until the $14 million dollar contract set by the High Table was in force at an international level.
As far as the beginning of an action movie goes, I have never in my life seen such a dizzying amount of choreographed action. Every weapon imaginable seems used in the first 15 minutes, guns, knives, katanas, fists and more. I was enjoying the film as much as I was enjoying the audience react to a ridiculously hilarious amount of gratuitous over the top bloodshed.
Perhaps a level-headed person, with an aversion to violence might ask: Are you calling this violence hilarious? I have to answer yes, as it does get to the realm of over the top, with a sincere edge of hilarity. The director Chad Stahelski, and screenplay writers Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatte, Chris Collins, and Marc Abrams never shy away from making a joke about how all of this shooting, killing, and knife fighting to the death is all in a day’s work.
Many times in between fighting scenes, as the characters must adhere to safe spaces rules as certain locations are off limits “to conduct High Table business.” It is similar in concept to Ultimate Fighting Champions sharing brunch and champagne, where an hour before, they were beating each other to a bloody pulp inside the UFC ring.
While the movie was jam-packed with fighting action, the acting by many of the actors simply fell flat. In as much as director Chad Stahelski creates a visually-stunning film that appears to be a beautifully colorful comic book, it isn’t likely to win any awards for emotionally-charged acting.
But I thought of the analogy, “who wants to study algebra on a roller coaster ride?” Sure the movie could have been helped a bit by a little bit of emotional investment, but it wasn’t there. So I went with it and enjoyed it anyway. Yes, there was a bit of eye-rolling.
I couldn’t get into Halle Berry’s character of Sofia at all. I am not a great admirer of Halle Berry’s work, to be honest, I haven’t ever really been convinced with her acting portrayals in film, but I struggle to say anything mean, because I truly respect that she is who she is, she is in a ton of films and works all the time. So respect to the grind, Halle. Though I did like her attack German Shepherds. I also love John Wick's dog, the lovable pit bull who has yet to be named by Wick.
I also wasn’t thrilled about the performance of Asia Kate Dillon, who plays ‘The Adjudicator,’ a High Table judge of sorts that dispenses with bloody justice freely. Perhaps she felt she had to carry the world of the John Wick chronicles mystery on her shoulders, similar to Brad Pitt who I felt way overacted his portrayal of Lestat in The Vampire Chronicles. Dillon was a bit too android-like in her movements, I would have rather seen her throw her leg over the corner of a chair and rub her weary eyes with exhaustion. Perhaps she needs a bit of time to grow into the role.
Jerome Flynn, who plays Berrada, whom some might recognize from Game of Thrones, wasn’t bad, but his accent flip-flopped from Russian to Italian and was a bit odd. Anjelica Huston as ‘The Director’ was interesting, but I am not sure if I bought the whole Russian mean-lady thing.
In contrast to some of the performance by some actors that I wasn’t thrilled with, my favorite actor in the film is Lance Reddick, who plays the cool-headed concierge turned shotgun-wielding bad-ass in the film. Laurence Fishburne was a lot of fun as the homeless community kingpin, Ian McShane was hilarious as the High Table defecting smartmouth Winston, and Mark Dacascos — perhaps you might remember him in the Iron Chef reboot on the Food Network — was an absolute riot.
A few spoilers
Within 15 minutes, John Wick kills about 25 people with gunshots to the head, countless big knives pulled and thrown from glass cases (usually smashed open by someone’s head of course) and while fighting amidst horses, assassins are kicked in the head countless times by John Wick slapping horses.
A horse chase with motorcycles ensues and John Wick continues to best everyone with some of the most intense action I have ever seen.
As John gets closer to the 60-minute countdown, he destroys a would-be killer with a book, then eventually makes it to a doctor to help sew him up. The doctor almost finishes.
John goes to his former school, thus we see a bit of background and uses a beaded rosary ‘ticket’ to get to Casablanca. More fighting, more knife and gunfights, enter Halle Berry, more fighting, enter attack dogs. More killing, and gunshots to the head. There are probably 200 or more gunshots to the head in this movie. I am not exaggerating.
He meets with a High Table executive in hopes to remove his ‘excommunicado’ status for killing a guy on company grounds in John Wick 2, and thus will have the multi-million dollar contract removed.
He ventures into the desert and is picked up by camel where he meets the High Table elder. The elder is in an elaborate desert tent similar to something you might see in Disney’s Aladdin. The one thing I could not let go of (don’t read further or you won’t be able to let it go either) are the two weird knotted dinkle-balls coming out of the elders' headpiece. It was driving me nuts.
He has to cut off a finger and kill his former ‘boss’ to come back in have everything lifted.
A perfect excuse for more killing.
John Wick comes back and decides to allow Winston to live, thus, more killing as the High Table retaliates.
Shot in the head death count: most likely around 387. Including one underneath the water. I didn’t know guns would shoot underwater unless the bullet casing is waterproof.
John Wick fights everyone, Winston betrays John Wick to get back good with the High Table. John Wick falls off of a building after getting shot by Winston, hitting several things on the way down. Laurence Fishburne’s character rescues John Wick, and asks if John Wick is mad, John Wick says ‘Yes.’
Enter the absolute premise for John Wick 4. Will I be there?
Yes, I will.
John Wick 3 - Parabellum hits theaters May 17
Follow the Native Nerd, Vincent Schilling associate editor for Indian Country Today at @VinceSchilling - Make sure to use the Hashtag #NativeNerd