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Stuntman-turned-director delivers a gorgeously shot and choreographed action film. By Beth Accomando. The third chapter in the John Wick saga arrives this week and ramps up the action to new heights. Wick, played once again by Keanu Reeves, continues to face the consequences for his violent ram of revenge over the killing of his puppy two films ago.
As a dog lover I felt he was totally justified. Wick was described in the first film as a kind of boogeyman who can take someone out with a pencil and can execute a hit with the most lethal efficiency and just disappear. The first film racked up an outrageous of kills in breathtaking fashion then Stahelski upped the ante in "Chapter 2. Granted in this latest outing, he is showing more wear and tear.
While I have enjoyed these sequels, neither one compares to the original in terms of elegant simplicity. So many action films fail to realize that you only need the barest minimum of a plot in order to set the action in motion. The film was off and running on its escalating violence and delivered the perfect adrenaline fix for an action junkie like myself. So I do miss the minimalism of that first film but Stahelski has kept my admiration by raising the bar with each film in terms of the action he delivers onscreen.
We live in a world where we witness real and horrific violence on an almost daily basis. I feel like seeing one of the Wick films is more likely to inspire someone to want to become a stuntman or take up martial arts than to want to become a lethal assassin. These films are really at heart about the art and craft of screen stunts and action. That means writers, cinematographers, editors and cast are all involved from square one in terms of planning, rehearsing and executing scenes involving action.
Stahelski has a complete understanding of the dynamics of screen action plus an appreciation of film masters like Orson Welles and film theory such as mise-en-scene. So his films incorporate not just a jaw-dropping sense of innovation in terms of the action but also work to create a visual style that complements the action and is aesthetically pleasing.
This also means working closely with his star Reeves in not just creating the character of Wick but in creating action that the star can credibly execute. Stahelski and Reeves are both clear in pointing out that while Reeves trains with impressive ferocity to prepare for these films what he does onscreen is action and stunt doubles are the ones doing the stunts.
The two draw a clear line between stunts and action in order to make sure that those hardworking stunt people get the credit they are due. That being said, Reeves does a lot of amazing action from martial arts to tactical gun work to riding horses and motorcycles. This guy is intense despite his laid back, nice guy persona. The speed of the action leaves you breathless and I emphasize it is the speed of the action itself not the cutting or any frenetic camerawork.
Like those silent clowns and Asian action films, Stahelski often uses long wide takes to allow us to appreciate the action and the fact that it is often Reeves executing the moves. Fast cuts are what films do to hide bad action or to show that they have no understanding of how to depict it onscreen.
In "Chapter 3" the action involves a lot more group attacks on Wick, which includes much more rapid-fire interaction and a lot more pain. But my acceptance of her as a retired hit woman is aided immensely by the fact her character comes with two of the most stunning action dogs to ever hit the screen. Those dogs are fierce.
Dacascos is great and seems to take absolute delight in the role and in being able to partake in great combat scenes. So it would have been cool if instead of casting Hollywood star Berry the director had turned to someone like Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Rothrock or Zoe Bell, an actress with genuine action skills. It just would have been more fun. But Berry proves acceptable in the role and apparently trained hard for it.
The two of them have an exhausting, extended battle with Wick that will leave you gasping. Did I already confess to being a dog person?
In that capacity he can be great. And by the looks of this films ending, there might be a way to resurrect him for at least one more film. My only complaint has to do with some narrative flaws. So I am fine with people falling off of buildings and surviving or walking through a hail of bullets without a scratch. But there is a point in the story where Wick does something so out of character and so not in keeping with the memory of his beloved wife that it almost derailed the whole film for me.
Fortunately the film corrected itself but I wish it had conceived of a smarter way to keep the plot going than to have Wick abandon his own core values. Stahelski and company make you will feel the impact of every blow and experience the exhaustion Wick feels at the relentless onslaught of attackers. Think of it like a musical where the s are flawlessly rendered but the scenes in between could use a little more polish or depth.
There is something about action well done on screen that is so intoxicating that there is no other drug quite like it. Film is meant to depict motion. If you love the motion of motion pictures, then this film is for you.
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Search Input Field. Thursday, May 16, By Beth Accomando. Become a KPBS sponsor today! Latest on kpbs.Laid back down to Wick with the program
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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum ()