Review – Shoot. Reload. Repeat. (“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”)

Never, ever, mess with a man’s dog. EVER. Keanu Reeves, in what is possibly his best on-screen persona since Neo in The Matrix, or his wacky Theodore “Ted” S. Logan in the two Bill & Ted movies, has killed his way into the hearts of millions. Whoa! Here, he does what John Wick does best: take out the bad guys!

Picking up moments from part two, John Wick (Reeves) has been labeled “excommunicado” by the High Table (a global organization for assassins) for killing a bad guy inside The Continental Hotel, the sanctum sanctorum for killers. Now on the run with a $14 million bounty on his head, John has to navigate his way out of NYC from every conceivable hit-man alive. And believe me, they are everywhere! But what’s his plan? Avoiding bullets, hand-to-hand, and an array of knives, John finds temporary solace with the Director (Angelica Huston), a High Table member who, against orders, allows John safe passage to Casablanca.
But John’s not there for a vacation, he’s there to seek absolution from a High Table Elder (Saïd Taghmaoui). But to do this, he’s gonna need a little help, and he gets it (albeit reluctantly) from Sophia (Halle Berry), a former friend and deadly contract killer, along with her two very lethal attack dogs. Needless to say, things don’t as planned and John is given an ultimatum: join the High Table and carry out an impossible contract. . .or die! Meanwhile, back in NYC, things aren’t going so well either.
Remember when John off’d that guy inside the Continental? Well, not only did John break a major rule, but so did other people in John’s circle of trust, and that brings out the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillion). A no-nonsense High Table representative, she exacts revenge with the help of her nasty, Wick fan-boy ninja servant, Zero (Mark Dacascos). That means that many will have to pay the price for helping John with devastating results, like the crime lord, the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), who receives “The Seven Deadly Cuts” (ouch!) or Continental manager Winston (Ian McShane), who gets fired.
Pretty soon all hell breaks loose right back at the very hotel where it started with a cacophony of bullets, blood, and mayhem. And yes, in case you were wondering, the movie clearly gives us an opening for a part four! One thing is for certain, this film ups the ante from the other John Wick movies in its spectacular stunt work and body count. Forget the simplistic screenplay by Derek Klostad, Shay Hatten, Chis Collins, and Marc Abrams, because the story is about as thread bare as they come with plot holes and the most ludicrous situations ever put on paper.
But, you didn’t come to see Shakespeare or hear Sorkin, did you? Nawwww! You came to see Chad Stahelski’s insane eye-popping camera work and tireless attention to getting the shot right. I can’t express to you the many jaw-dropping stunts here: the knives-throwing scene is an early highlight, the Wick/Sofia video-game POV shoot-out is outrageous, breath-taking, and looks like a single-take, and the incredible samurai-sword vs motorcycle chase on a NYC bridge. And those are just some of the best! As heart-stopping as they are, the final staged fight in the Continental does goes on a bit too long and gets exhausting (almost boring) to watch.
With every fight, kick, stab, and being thrown threw plate glass, Superman… I mean, John Wick, still manages to easily survive every conceivable massive trauma to his body that the normal human would have died from 100 times over. Looks like Neo is the ONE after all! There’s non-stop action, lotsa humor, and more ultra-violence than you can shake a Tarantino at. Reeves is in his element here and Berry is positively riveting in her small role; I really would have liked to have seen a movie about character, though. Don’t blink or you’ll miss a funny cameo by Robin Lord Taylor (Penguin from TV’s Gotham) as a paper pusher in the administration office.

The Warriors (1979)

“Warriors… come out and plaaaaaaaayyyy!” With those ad-libbed, sing-songy lines immortalized by actor David Patrick Kelly, jangling three Coke bottles together, this weird film by action director Walter Hill almost set off a real gang war in NYC because of its content and odd storyline about a street gang just trying to make it home.

I’m guessing this is set in some alternate universe, as screenwriters David Schaber and Walter Hill would have you first believe that residing in NYC are a plethora of gangs. . and not just gangs, mind you, but really odd-ball gangs with names like the Gramercy Riff’s, the Turnbull AC’s, the Baseball Furies, the Lizzies, the Punks, the Boppers, the Electric Eliminators, the Savage Huns, and others. And each gang wears some crazy matching outfit (and make-up) that is straight out of a Broadway musical! Oh, yeah, REAL threatening!

Anyway, Cyrus (Roger Hill), leader of the Gramercy Riffs (the most powerful gang in NYC), calls a midnight summit of all the gangs calling for an unified truce.  The Warriors, from Coney Island, attend this momentous occasion but, as most of the gangs applaud his idea, Luther (Kelly), leader of the Rogues, does not. He kills Cyrus and frames the Warriors as a good measure. The Warriors, now implicated in Cyrus’ murder, must navigate their way home through a gauntlet of crazy gangs, as a bounty has been placed on their collective heads by the other Gramercy Riffs.

The Warriors are lead by level-headed Swan (Michael Beck), his muscle Ajax (James Remar), and foot soldiers Snow, Cochise, and Cowboy (Brian Tyler, David Harris, and Tom McKitterick). There’s also Rembrandt (Marcelino Sanchez) and Vermin (Terry Michos) as back-up Warriors on the run as well. Needless to say, getting back to the safety and sanctuary of their home turf isn’t going to be as easy as just taking the subway home. Nope! They have to outwit and kick-ass all the other gangs that are trying to stop them. And trust me, there are plenty!

From the Turnbull AC’s, to the goofy Orphans, the Warriors are sometimes outnumbered and unarmed, but always manage to escape somehow. They brawl with the Baseball Furies and almost get seduced by an all-female gang called the Lizzies. Sure they get separated and have adventures on their own, but the met up later and finally reach Coney Island, only to find Luther and the Riff’s there waiting! Uh-oh!! But justice wins out as big-mouthed Luther spills the beans about his shooting Cyrus and all’s well that ends well!

For a rather silly and seemingly ridiculous film about a bunch of gangs dressed up for a cosplay, this fantasy movie does have a certain rough and violent texture about it that is appealing and very watchable. Not since Scorsese’s The Gangs Of New York do you have a bunch of street thugs running around the burrows of NYC dressed up full-on make-up and costumes, calling themselves a ‘gang’, and carrying baseball bats with nails in them. The actors take it seriously, as does the script, which paints the streets of NYC alive with colorful gangs ready to “bop” each other at a moments notice. Really, this should be on those NYC tours!

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