John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) – A Great Sequel Entering Dangerous New Ground

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum IMAX Poster Invites You ...

    “John Wick 3” is a great film. It is also a film that I worry has the potential to be the last great film in this Franchise. This film has action better than the first film but I’d argue the drama still isn’t as strong. The first film didn’t need a sequel, while this one goes all in on Franchising. This for me is the biggest issue, which is why I’ve brought it up twice. I enjoyed the new characters and this world run by assassins with deep lore is why I watched the sequel in the first place. This film grows on that, and it could go further and that is what makes it great, even if the film doesn’t feel like an end.

The film was directed by Chad Stahelski and written by Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins and Marc Abrams.

The story follows John Wick (Keanu Reeves) after “John Wick 2” as he loses protection and has all assassins set upon him. The High Table sends a Adjudicator  to punish all those who helped him, including the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and the Continental Hotel leading to a confrontation as John Wick seeks help to clear his name.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful. If you look at the poster that I used to start the review, it has that level of color contrast throughout the film. This is a film that makes the most of the environments the characters find themselves in. At one point we are in a desert, another time fighting in a library and the rainy streets of New York City. Dan Laustsen truly has a masterful eye.

The Action – This is a film that has some beautiful action. We have a gun and knife fight in a museum that has old guns and weapons. We get a fight in a room of mirrors with multiple combatants and a shoot-out in Casablanca. The “John Wick Franchise” has always been great on action and in this it got back to the variety of the first film and in many was better. This film went all in on the set pieces it gave us.

The Characters – The characters get exploration are some of the strongest part of this Franchise and this film delves into characters from 2 and introduces us to some great compelling villains who I can’t wait to learn more about. This is a character driven drama and this film fully embraces that.

Zero – Zero is the man the High Table hires to hunt down John Wick. Mark Dacascos does a wonderful job as the assassin. He is a fan of John Wick and has a sense of honor about him. He only does what is asked and never breaks the rules that are set.

The Adjudicator – Asia Kate Dillon is amazing. I’m so glad she survived this film. The Adjudicator is more threatening than any characters we’ve met so far. I’m including all those at the High Table too. Asia is also a non-binary actor and I’m hoping we see Asia in more things. The Adjudicator is the most compelling character in the series at this point outside of John Wick and I can’t wait to see how their story unfolds.

Sofia – Sofia owns the Continental in Casablanca and only helps John because he helped save her daughter. Their relationship is complicated and you can see the love and hatred within it. They are in a job where favors cost even  Things have to be pretty bad when it involves love. They were at one point clearly friends, but all of Sofia’s help comes from business or revenge. I hope she comes back. Halle Berry did an amazing job. She was one of my favorite characters in this film. I know she isn’t a fan of Wick, but her actions in the film made her an enemy of the High Table.

Berrada – Jerome Flynn (Bronn from “Game of Thrones”) shows up as the Master of Coin of the High Table and even though he helps John Wick (Tells him how to find the Elder, go into the desert and walk until you collapse). He also shoots Sofia’s dog when she refuses to give him it. He manages to survive Wick and Sofia so I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll turn up again. Berrada controls the money and is part of the balance of the High Table.

Winston and Charon – This is the film that shows just how great Winston and Charon are. Charon holds the line against The High Table’s forces with John Wick and is the only survivor outside of him. Winston is the manipulator. He calls a parlet after the battle is one and “kills” John Wick. What is implied is that he knew John Wick would survive and is still an ally even though the Adjudicator doesn’t trust what happened and says that his hotel is now responsible for killing Wick. How this will go remains to be seen. Ian McShane and Lance Reddik continue to be one of the strongest parts of this franchise. Can’t wait to see what their characters have planned next.

The Bowery King – Laurence Fishburne continues to be the core resistance against the High Table. When the Adjudicator shows up, he laughs in their face. This is a character I didn’t expect to survive. Given he did I think there is so much promise. He uses The Tick Tock Man (Jason Mantzoukas) to rescue John after he is shot by Wintson. This is a character who gets the long game and I really hope he gets a great story worthy of surviving the High Table’s revenge. Fishburne’s charisma and the fun he has is the character has been an enjoyment since the last film.

John Wick – John Wick drives the story. This is a man who returns to the family he left behind (The Ruska Roma) only to have them send him to Casablanca and to lose all their protection. From here he proceeds to lose more as when he meets the High Table Elder after injuring a member of the High Table in his quest for the Elder. When John does meet the Elder he gives up his wedding ring and is an assassin who is sent to kill Winston. Instead he joins Winston and protects the New York Continental only to barely survive when Winston parlays with the High Table and leaves him for dead after shooting him. What progress and safety he earned, he gave up and now all he has is the Bowery King and his war against the High Table who controls the world. Keanu Reeves owns this character and I think as worried as I am about this becoming a dead franchise, there is still a story to tell.

The Cons:

Too Long – This was problem the second film had as well. I would have cut the action sequences in half to get more lore. I get this is an action series but the lore is so rich and there are so many relationships that are worth exploring. When action drives everything it can only go so far. I love good action but character is what makes a film.

The Danger of Franchises Never Ending – This film is all about “John Wick 4.” Everything in the setup is sequel bate. How it will do that has me intrigued but that is also a danger. I can’t think of a good 3rd Movie post sequel that made me want a further franchise. It can work for books but films have less time. It could still be great but all it takes is a studio executive or lazy director not caring.

“John Wick 3” is a great film. If you have been along with the Franchise up to this point I’d say go for it. The action is compelling and the world is developed further. We meet the Elder who controls the High Council to some degree and we see Wick betray him. There is so much going on and the twist of the Bowery King surviving his punishment woks. I want more Fishburne as the Bowery King was always mad so we have two mad factions against each other. Order versus chaos. Part of me does wish it had ended here and that the story had continued without Wick, but if you are building Batman, you need Bruce Wayne and this series clearly knows that. I’m mostly worried about this series going “Die Hard 4.” I could be wrong, the writers are clearly intelligent but that will always be a fear with action franchises. If you saw the first 2 films, chances are you will enjoy this as much as I did. Check it out.

Final Score: 9.2 This is a great film and even with the danger of franchise overkill, there is promise in the story ahead.

Casablanca (1942): An Amazing Story of Love in a Time of War

Casablanca

       “Casablanca,” is a film I always caught at the wrong time, every time it was on, so much was going on already so the movie was always in the background and usually remained unfinished by the time I would leave. “Casablanca,” is a fascinating film, considering it was completed when World War 2 was still going on. The Nazis still occupied a lot of Europe and it was unknown who would be victorious in the end. The screenplay itself is based off a play called “Everybody Comes to Rick’s,” by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. The fact that they were writing from a time where history remained unwritten gives the present of the story so much life. 

   “Casablanca,” was directed by Michael Curtiz and is the story of Rick (Humphrey Bogart) who owns a saloon in Nazi occupied Casablanca in the French Morocco. He is a pretty selfish guy whose perspective changes when a former lover named Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) re-enters his life with her fascist resisting husband Victor Laszlo…from here the story unfolds as politics between factions arise as the drama unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The Music – God I love the music in this. From “As Time Goes By,” to the orchestra pieces and the jazz…you feel like you are in Casablanca and the music always fits what is going on. I could listen to this soundtrack for days and plan on using it to inspire my own writing. Max Steiner is fantastic.

The Cinematography – The cinematography captures the cramped feel of the bazaar, the open feel of Rick’s saloon and the noir feel of the ending in the escape sequence intermixed with the backstabbing and double dealing.

Rick Blaine – Humphrey Bogart owns this role and creates a compelling character who we never know if he is selfish and all about the money…or still the idealist at heart that brought him to Europe in the first place to fight the fascist governments as a mercenary. We see his complexity through his relationships, from Sam who is his piano player at the saloon to the French Captain Louis Renalt and Isla and her husband Laszlo (as well as smaller smuggler characters too), they  each reveal parts of his selfish and selfless side as the story goes on.

Isla Lund – What would you do if you believed your husband to be dead and fell in love with another? This is Isla’s dilemma as her romance with Rich in Paris occurs when she has believed for some time that Laszlo is dead. Also Laszlo loves the cause more than he loves her and Rick loves her. This is an interesting choice and she only gives up her agency to Rick at the end when he tells her he’ll need her to to help her and Laszlo escape. Ingrid Bergman is amazing in the role and gives us a complex character who makes her own path in a situation where it is difficult to do just that.

Sam – Dooley Wilson is the connection to Rick and Isla and is a character with a lot of awareness. He tries to talk Rick out of dredging up the past and tries to help him and Isla move on even as they use him as a tool to express their feelings of love lost in the song he plays, “As Time Goes By,” he is a great singer and the only downside is I wish he’d played more of a part after the First Act. After his attempts fail, he just kind of exists as the piano player.

Louis Renalt – I love this character. He is the kind of character I love watching in television shows…characters who are a shade of grey but when they sell themselves as truly selfish it is believable because of how charming they are and how they do what is asked of them…though with always an added twist. Claude Rains is my favorite minor character and I’d have watched the movie it was just about him and how the events of the story change him or force him to reveal where his true loyalties are.

The Dialogue – Reveals the distinct personalities of the characters and helps show events rather than tell events. The best example of this is when we see Isla and Rick’s time and Paris and how the romance happens. It is subtle and the lines show how each of them are hiding their past but want to be together with what they can give…as well as Isla’s leaving where you know there is more going on, but until Laszlo’s reveal…we don’t know what that thing is.

The Reveal – Renault sets up a Nazi officer being sent to the airplane where Isla and Laszlo will be escaping but the Nazi Officer is killed by Rick who is fighting for them. His choosing to fight for Isla and a higher cause of the resistance is the big reveal as well as Renault being sympathetic and joining with Rick to go and fight the Nazis.

The Message – Love is greater than romance, there are ideals greater than the individual and the theme of solidarity in resistance. Love is greater than romance in that Rick gets over his wish to be with Isla and lets her leave with her husband telling her “We’ll always have Paris.” He has finally gotten past himself and sees that if they were together it would involve hurting her (letting Laszlo get caught) in the process. The other part is when he kills the Nazi officer and re-devotes himself to fighting the fascists. Renault joins him in this and they decide to join the French Resistance. There are also the themes of solidarity in the singing of “Viva la France,” against the Nazi’s nationalist anthem and Rick helping a Bulgarian couple escape by letting the husband win in his gambling so they’ll have the funds to travel to America. There are others as well, but this theme is pervasive and makes the film even stronger.

Okay: The Nazi Officers – They are just kind of there, but exist mostly as a threat. I never felt like they were fully fleshed out in regards to their motivations. Sure they get lines, but there aren’t any characters like the S.S. Officer in “Inglorious Bastards.” They serve their role, but are pretty replaceable.

Victor Laszlo – I really wanted to like this character. He is a resistance fighter with a compelling backstory (fought for the Czech and other resistances in Europe against the Nazis) is put in a concentration camp and escapes, and he forgives Isla for cheating on him. The actor just doesn’t make his character greater than his role though. He is there to be the face of the resistance and love of a cause (he’d leave if he got the chance and leave Isla if it meant continuing the fight), but he just isn’t as compelling as Isla and Rick. I wish we’d heard more about what he went through, we can really only guess based off what we know.

The Length – This movie at times feels long. This is good for building tension, but sometimes can drag. This isn’t a con though since I love all the time with the characters…it just needs to be addressed since it isn’t a pro. It would have been a pro if it didn’t feel long.

     This is one of my all time favorite films after tonight and one I intend to watch again in the future. There is a reason it won 3 Academy Awards and why it is recognized as one of the classics. It’s themes are timeless, it’s characters are great and the music is some of the best from any movie. It is a near perfect film and reminds us of the things worth living and dying for. I can’t recommend this film enough.

My final Score for the film is 9.8 / 10.