If you ask the average bro what John Wick’s story is about, they might respond “Gun-Fu!” Pose the same questions to any dog-owner, they’d likely reply, “Love for dogs.” If you ask me, I would say that the John Wick franchise is about identity, and dramatizes working through deeply ingrained violence toward the realization that the things or people that you love can and should define you as much as the actions that you take, if not more so.
John’s grief-fueled revenge in the first film is as much an instinctive response as it is an escape from dealing with his pain in a healthy and rational way. What follows in Chapter 2 is clearly a desperate uncertainty about his place in the world, emotionally, professionally, and with regards to his long-standing relationships. He tries to escape consequences for re-entry into the life he’d left behind for Helen, but finds himself caught up in obligation and then betrayal – the obvious hallmarks of existence among working assassins. After giving into revenge once more by murdering Santino on Continental grounds, he finds himself once more with a dog, but in the worst place he’s possibly ever been, with countless assassins coming for the bounty on his head.
With Chapter 3: Parabellum, John’s journey takes him through rain, sand, and sea. We see him try to find himself with the tribal Russian culture he grew up in. We see him try to find himself in old friendships (though we only see Halle Berry’s Sofia fall into the same vengeful traps he has). John even makes a desperate attempt to rejoin the High Table’s league of assassins that have worked so hard to destroy him. In the end, we see John start to realize that his love for Helen isn’t honored by the things he’s pursued, and that his desire to remember won’t be worthwhile if he doesn’t have things or people to treasure while he lives.
This is why the dog matters.
There is a fantastic scene in which John repeatedly denies sameness with Marc Dacascos’ Zero, while his dog gives him slobbery kisses. Insistent, Zero all but shouts that they are both masters of Death, and that is why they are the same. John says nothing, but he does look to his dog, tells him to sit and stay, and then leaves to make a massive choice regarding Winston.
John is not merely a master of Death. He’s the master of a dog that loves him, and he knows how to treasure it back. That is the only thing that separates him from the mass of assassins after him. His choice to defy the high table and choose his friends is one made out of growth – it’s truly a shame he’s betrayed so badly. In the end, tragically, he is clearly headed back toward revenge once more.
But yeah, I also love the gun-fu and the dogs.
This third film has absolutely cemented John Wick’s story as one of the great trilogies to grace action movie history. Not only does the world-building continue to be top notch (the New York Public Library, anyone?!), but we see real depth gained with regard to John’s backstory – or perhaps I should say Jardani. Moreover, the attention to character beats are matched moment for moment with extremely well-choreographed and inventive fight scenes. I cannot stress how impressive the editing and staging is in this. Truly spectacular, and all praise should be given to Dan Laustsen for cinematography and lighting. I could easily watch six more of these films. It has redefined the way we film violence, and as an avid consumer of action for entertainment, I will happily admit that this is some of the craziest, most impressively shot violence I’ve ever had the privilege of watching.
Of course, most importantly, the dogs are protected at all costs this time. And really, isn’t that what this is all about?
I’ve seen the first two movies in the series, but it’s a been a while for both so I came into this movie with not much memory of them.
That being said, this movie is a great action flick, well choreographed fight scenes, and some nasty kill scenes. If those types of things aren’t for you, this movie is not one you will like.
However, I like those kinds of movies and thoroughly enjoyed this one. From the opening scene starring Keanu and a pro basketball player at the New York City Library (remember to put your books back boys and girls!), to the scenes in Casablanca, this movie is (almost) non-stop action.
It also delves a bit into John Wick’s past and introduces some new characters. I felt that Jason Mantzoukas‘ role as Tick Tock Man was vastly underused, and if we get a sequel (as was hinted by director Chad Stahelski today) I hope to see more of Halle Berry’s character (Sofia). A potential sequel I feel would help delve more into the past that Wick and Sofia have.
The movie opens in the US on May 17th, so go and see if it you like action filled “gun-fu” movies with lots of violence!