January 25, 2020 – In the John Wick versus the otherwise well-organized guild of international assassins who can't shoot straight, it is now about 100-0 in Wick's favor. These professional killers shoot at him hundreds of times and they just keep missing. No wonder the guild wants to recruit Wick so badly to handle assassinations. He seems to be the only straight shooter around.
Picking up where Wick 2 left off, we have John Wick declared “excommunicado” with a multi-million bounty on his head because he violated a rule of the aforementioned assassin's guild. This is a big deal, but it turns out there are several characters in this film who have also violated the rules, with less dire consequences. Oh, and by the way, Parabellum is a kind of gun. I looked it up.
In a guild office, some secretary types keep track of a countdown in the last hour before Wick's bounty becomes active and open season is declared on him. Even bums on the street seem to know about the bounty, and who Wick is, and how much time he has left.
Even before his time is up, a huge killer tries to kill him, in the New York Public Library of all places, where Wick has come to get some valuable coins and artifacts he has hidden there. It turns out Wick needs the artifacts to collect on an old debt from a Russian Gypsy mob boss (played by Anjelica Huston) so he can get out of town. In a scene at her Ruska Roma headquarters, Wick declares to her his alternate identity, Jardani Jovonovich, a Belarusian. Wick declares to her that he is “ ... a child of the Belarus, an orphan of your tribe. You are bound to help me ... and I am owed.”
Collecting on what he is owed, he gets safe passage from New York City to Casablanca, where he meets with another high level assassin, Sofia (Halle Berry of “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”). He is in search of the elusive leader of the guild. This search results in more fights and more deaths, as he and Sofia end up killing a lot of minions working for another man in the “High Table” of the guild organization, Berrada (Jerome Flynn) who knows the way to the head of the assassins.
Wick returns to New York to face a big showdown with other assassins, led by Zero (Mark Dacascos of “Brotherhood of the Wolf”) and his very deadly martial arts students, hired by the guild to enforce guild rules that Wick and others have broken. This involves more killing, and less severe punishments to those who sit at the High Table. The ending of this film implies yet another sequel.
This movie has a surprising amount of religious symbolism in it, including the guild's use of the terms “excommunicado” and “deconsecrate.” The guild also uses “adjudicators” (another term with religious meaning) to enforce guild rules. Wick possesses what appears to be an Eastern Orthodox crucifix, which is his “ticket” out of New York, collected by the Ruska Roma. The ticket ceremony includes Wick being branded on his back using the same crucifix.
The main things this film has going for it are its many well-staged action scenes, particularly its beautifully choreographed martial arts sequences and stunts. There is a lot of variety in these scenes, featuring fists, knives, swords, guns, even horses (Wick knows how to make a horse accurately kick his enemies in a timely manner) and dogs (Sofia has some very well trained dogs, who like to bite men in the groin area, a tactic which greatly distracts her enemies).
Such mastery of action scenes is no surprise, considering the fact that this film's director, Chad Stahelski (he also directed the first two John Wick movies) is a stunt man and stunt coordinator with a martial arts background. Stahelski has taken a film with a minimal, far-fetched story and made it into an entertaining action extravaganza. That is not easy to do. This film rates a B.
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