Movie Review: ‘John Wick: Chapter 3’ Might Be the Loudest Action Movie Ever Made

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CREDIT: Niko Tavernise

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston, Ian McShane, Saïd Taghmaoui, Jason Mantzoukas, Robin Lord Taylor

Director: Chad Stahelski

Running Time: 131 Minutes

Rating: R for Traditional and Improvised Weaponry Galore

Release Date: May 17, 2019

Either I have really sensitive ears, or other critics and action film buffs have had their hearing blown out by cinematic cacophony.

The first John Wick had some cool ideas about how a worldwide network of assassins would be managed and litigated, but it was sloppily edited and so, so overwhelmingly loud. (It’s possible that the theater I saw it in didn’t have the sound properly calibrated, but I’ve seen plenty of movies in that theater before and after in which that hasn’t been an issue.) Then Chapter 2 came along and cleaned up those execution snafus.* But now Chapter 3 is backsliding, or just leaning too hard into the danger zone. The outrageously choreographed fight sequences are still shot gracefully, but the soundtrack is now oppressive at Guinness record-shattering levels. (*-Although, looking back at my review of Chapter 2, I am reminded that this trilogy actually never quieted down.)

This edition opens with Keanu Reeves and a fellow assassin breaking every possible glass surface within reach, and the volume for that level of destruction never lets up. And look, I could forgive this movie my eardrums getting blown out if everything else were satisfying, but I just don’t really much care about the mess that Wick has gotten himself mucked up in. He’s run afoul of some sacred rules, and now he and whoever’s helped him must atone rather ritualistically, but I just want to shout to the enforcers, “Get over yourselves!”

At least the performances remain commendably committed. Reeves, Ian McShane, and Laurence Fishburne are as righteous as you remember them. Among the newcomers, Asia Kate Dillon commands respect in the rather thankless task as the uber-rules-respecting adjudicator, while Jason Mantzoukas is a little helper fellow who is nowhere near as unhinged as his typical roles, though he does wonders with his face acting. That’s some subtlety that could have been quite useful elsewhere in this overloaded buffet of gore.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is Recommended If You: Have less sensitive hearing than I do

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Shattered Windows

This Is a Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 2

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This review was originally published on News Cult in February 2017.

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Common, Ruby Rose, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne

Director: Chad Stahelski

Running Time: 122 Minutes

Rating: R for BANG! BANG! BANG!

Release Date: February 10, 2017

The first John Wick was one of the loudest theatrical experiences I have ever endured. I did not encounter this complaint from anyone else, but I’m fairly certain I was not going insane. It’s possible that this particular auditorium’s sound mix was way out of proportion, but I am intimately familiar with that theater, so that explanation is unlikely. With Chapter 2 now on the way, I can safely say I feel vindicated about calling this franchise the most aurally assaulting around.

This hitman free-for-all kicks off with engines revving and metal crashing in an opening car chase that leaves you no opportunity to get your bearings. You might have enough time to put your hands over your ears, but barely. At least there appears to be a rhythm to the volume – a physical one, that is. In conclusion, I have spent two paragraphs explaining that my favorite part of John Wick: Chapter 2 is how great a massage it gave me, via the vibrations caused by the cacophony. I may have some moral qualms about deriving relaxation from such wanton violence, but this is a patently fantastical universe (despite its lived-in New York trappings), so we can skate around that a bit.

The concepts that the first John Wick introduced to the action genre are ones for the ages. The global hitman battle royale is like a magical underworld that exists within the shadows. Plus, the hotel serving these assassins, in which all killing is forbidden, with Concierge Lance Reddick whisking us in, is a rich setup for comic relief. But it was all undone by sloppy editing that I could not believe an otherwise sophisticated flick thought it could get away with. Maybe a new hand on the controls is just what was needed, as Evan Schiff takes over for Elísabet Ronalds, and there is a whole lot more patience in the cuts. If Keanu Reeves is going to shove a pencil in one guy’s ear and another guy’s neck, we want to be able to see it. And in Chapter 2, we see EVERYTHING.

John Wick films are less about plot and more about setup. In this edition, Wick is forced to repay his debt, but it proves to be a trick to make him vulnerable. This is all just an excuse to get to the action, and it is effective. Wick’s reputation is an almost supernaturally skilled killer, often discussed in hushed tones and referred to as “The Boogeyman.” Yet his actual name is also repeated ad infinitum. The highest compliment I can pay this movie is that the action is so relentlessly intense that that lapse in logic does not matter.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is Recommended If You Like: The first John Wick But Wish It Had Been Edited Better, Laurence Fishburne Shouting to the Heavens

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Million Dollar Bounties