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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a massively overlong film where an awful lot of people die

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum                               Cert: 15, 2hrs 10mins

Rating:

By now, a resourceful teenager – probably living in his parents’ basement in the United States – knows exactly how many people are killed in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

He’ll already have gone to see it once, and realised immediately that here was something that needed to be counted, needed to be quantified – and gone to see it again, unworried this time by storyline or character development (oh, the relief) and done exactly that. 

One, two…

An awful lot of people die in this third film about the reclusive contract killer (Keanu Reeves), and in an extraordinarily rich variety of ways

An awful lot of people die in this third film about the reclusive contract killer (Keanu Reeves), and in an extraordinarily rich variety of ways

Half an hour in, I was guessing that the kill rate was running at about a body a minute, with a peak rate of maybe five times that. By the hour – in a film in which Keanu Reeves, when asked what he needs, really does reprise his famous line from The Matrix: ‘Guns, lots of guns’ – I’d completely lost both count, and most hope. 

So let’s just say that an awful lot of people die in this third film about the reclusive contract killer, and in an extraordinarily rich variety of ways.

Same old, same old, some will say; after all, this franchise has always been violent and is clearly not about to change given that the sequel’s Latin subtitle translates as ‘prepare for war’.

Halle Berry plays another dog-loving retired killer who we meet when the film diverts to North Africa, presumably to demonstrate that you can never have too much of a good thing

Halle Berry plays another dog-loving retired killer who we meet when the film diverts to North Africa, presumably to demonstrate that you can never have too much of a good thing

But this time the noir-ish comic-book edge, that until now has been the films’ modestly successful saving grace, largely gives way to the multiple and eventually mind-numbing deaths of the video game. 

And that, despite the clear invitation not to take this too seriously, is not for me.

However, it clearly is for others. In 2015, the first John Wick film – you remember, the one where, already mourning his wife, hitman John came out of retirement because someone killed his dog – took less than $90 million at the global box office, which for an action film starring Reeves was profitable but certainly not spectacular. 

Anjelica Huston is fun as a ballet-loving, Belarusian gangster in the new instalment which picks up pretty much where the last one left off - with John Wick limping rapidly away

Anjelica Huston is fun as a ballet-loving, Belarusian gangster in the new instalment which picks up pretty much where the last one left off – with John Wick limping rapidly away 

Two years later, however, the second film made almost double that: a franchise was duly born.

The new instalment picks up pretty much where the last one left off – with Wick (Reeves) limping rapidly away from the mysterious Continental Hotel, where he has committed the cardinal hitman sin: killing someone on so-called ‘consecrated’ ground. 

Or, to put it another way, somewhere where – courtesy of a long-standing agreement – assassins weren’t actually allowed to assassinate anyone. Only Wick has.

Duly declared ‘ex-communicado’ by the shadowy underworld organisation known as ‘the High Table’, there’s now a $14 million price on John Wick's head

Duly declared ‘ex-communicado’ by the shadowy underworld organisation known as ‘the High Table’, there’s now a $14 million price on John Wick’s head

Duly declared ‘ex-communicado’ by the shadowy underworld organisation known as ‘the High Table’, there’s now a $14 million price on his head, or rather there will be as the clock’s hands reach 6pm. 

By 6.10pm – with the first gang of bounty-hunters duly dispatched in ways so nastily inventive they make you wince and laugh at the same time – the reward for his death has gone up to $15 million.

IT’S A FACT

Ballroom dance-loving Keanu Reeves’s first jobs included sharpening the blades of ice skates and managing a pasta restaurant.

Every killer in New York is after him, but back at the Continental its smooth-talking manager, Winston (Ian McShane), is relaxed. ‘I’d say the odds were about even,’ he purrs, pouring himself a large brandy.

Anjelica Huston is fun as a ballet-loving, Belarusian gangster, while a long and eventually rather pointless-feeling diversion to North Africa is rewarded by Halle Berry playing another dog-loving retired killer, presumably to demonstrate that you can never have too much of a good thing.

All the while – in a massively overlong film that, judging by its martial arts and assassin ethnicity, is clearly chasing the Asian market – the body count mounts, with the ‘guns, lots of guns’ regularly making way for knives, axes, motorbikes, horses and, in one particularly nasty instance, a hardback book.

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If this is your sort of thing, please, knock yourself out. But I’ll pass.

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

Beats (18)

Rating:

Packed with promise but not wholly delivering on all that potential, this feels like the sort of pretty good film that someone makes before they make a really great one. The career of Scottish film-maker Brian Welsh is definitely heading in the right direction, helped here by some stylish monochrome photography, wonderful use of urban dereliction and bravely committed acting.

Based on a play by Kieran Hurley and set amid the dying days of the Scottish rave scene, it’s the story of Johnno (Cristian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald), two working-class teenagers whose lives are heading in very different directions. 

Beats is the story of Johnno (Cristian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald, above, far right), two working-class teenagers whose lives are heading in very different directions

Beats is the story of Johnno (Cristian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald, above, far right), two working-class teenagers whose lives are heading in very different directions

Johnno’s mum is marrying a policeman and moving the whole family to a lovely new house. Spanner, by contrast, lives with his psychopathic, drug-dealing brother and his life is going nowhere at all. 

But for one last summer they are best friends, desperate both to meet girls and get into an illegal rave. Trainspotting comparisons are unhelpful – the story is too slight and the pace too slow – but it’s authentic, funny and touching, underpinned by our growing understanding that it’s not just the rave scene that’s coming to an end.

 

Pick Of The Litter (PG)

Rating:

This is a feature-length documentary about the raising, training and selection of young guide dogs that follows a litter of labrador pups, including Phil, from the day they were born to their first outings with their visually impaired new owners. 

Pick Of The Litter is a feature-length documentary about the raising, training and selection of young guide dogs that follows a litter of labrador pups, including Phil (above)

Pick Of The Litter is a feature-length documentary about the raising, training and selection of young guide dogs that follows a litter of labrador pups, including Phil (above)

Sounds totally charming, doesn’t it? A word of warning: it’s American, at times, very so. But it’s worth sticking with as the story becomes more complex. 

 

PAW Patrol: Mighty Pups (U)

Rating:

This is apparently being released in more than 300 cinemas, which is strange as it’s little more than an extended episode of the Nick Jr children’s cartoon series on television and has no cinematic quality at all. 

Maybe the very young fans of Ryder and his faithful doggy helpers like it that way. But loud, shrill torture awaits accompanying adults. 

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