If you grew up watching films like Terminator or The Last Action Hero where Arnold Schwarzenegger was almost horrifyingly invincible or terrifyingly plastic, you knew those action heroes had to look a certain way. Buff to the point of biceps exploding out of their shirts. They can kill their enemies without worrying about having to stitch themselves up or worrying about how their hair looks because they haven't showered in days. Okay, so there were some rugged action heroes back in the day (Bruce Willis in Die Hard, Richard Gere in Red Corner) but John Wick 3 is 2019's evolution of the action hero: John Wick is Jon Snow and Jason Bourne in a mythical New York City.
I'll admit that the first two films bored me and made me roll my eyes when it came to excessive blood and gore. What's blood and gore if it's not Tarantino? If it's not stylized to the point of Japanese music and anime stepping into the live action scenes, it's just gore. So what was so great about John Wick that the film made over $88 million worldwide? The second movie, John Wick 2, made over $170 million at the box office worldwide. What was it about this character that people were loving so much.
Well. There's dogs. And there's mythology. The escapist fantasy that connects nerds and geeks all over the world and the fast-action format that appeals to jocks, the John Wick series has found the perfect midpoint in the Venn diagram of movie-goers.
In John Wick 3: Parabellum, Wick (played by Keanu Reeves) is running from the ultimatum he has been given by the High Table, a group of crime lords who run the crime mafia in the world. Ian McShane, who plays Winston, the manager of the City Continental New York City, runs this sanctuary hotel where no one can spill blood. Wick has and now he's got to pay the price. John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum is worked around John's various evasions and encounters of trying to get out of this mess and, of course, getting into brand new ones.
The visuals of the film are stunning. A futuristic New York meshes perfectly with the dark shadows of John Wick's character. Interestingly, Keanu's exhausted yet resilient appearance never clashes with overdramatic sequences. Whether it's the Moroccan tent with Sophia (Halle Berry) and Berrada (Jerome Flynn) or in the desert with the Elder (Said Taghmaoui) or the Adjudicator (played beautifully by Asia Kate Dillon), there are homages and evolutions. Laurence Fishburne channelizes The Matrix and Anjelica Huston's storyline has shades of Black Swan. It borrows but it doesn't seem copied. The archetype of the action hero is broken and evolving but it retains shades of the classic. The dialog isn't as smart as one would hope for but the moments are well-built for even a small 'Yeah' from Reeves or a 'Well played,' from Lance Reddick.
John Wick, as a modern action hero, has the mystic quality from the Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones and the rugged angst of Jason Bourne. His swagger comes from his struggle and his deadpan expression is only adding to his mystique. Perhaps the true action hero is, in some way, the embodiment of the actor himself and Reeves is known to be quite zen. The story itself relies heavily on the action which is well-executed (Stahelski, the director, was, at one point, the stunt coordinator for The Matrix) and shifts evenly between the Sin City milieu and the Mission Impossible zone. But whatever Stahelski has created, works. The public loves it and this looks like the beginning of a long romance.