If you’ll recall, I had to go solo for the first John Wick movie, much to The Boy’s later dismay. But it looked like just-another-dopey-shooty-action-movie, and those are a hard sell for him. The Boy, The Flower and I all went to see John Wick 2, of course. I wasn’t sure that it was quite as good as the first one. Specifically, the expanded universe thing was fun but such things are always hazardous. (See: every sequel Pixar has ever made.) It seemed unlikely to me that the third movie in the Wick series would be anywhere near as good as the first two: Cinematic lightning, as we all know, almost never strikes three times. (The Toy Story trilogy is, I have argued, the only good trilogy in American cinematic history.)
So how was John Wick 3? Well, I thought it was okay, if a little dull. The Flower loved it. The Boy hated it.
And there you go. Our first three-way split since the Persian A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.
I think we can agree that the opening fight scene was the best fight of the movie. It was excitingly choreographed and very much in keeping with the spirit of the rest of the movies. But The Boy and I both felt that after that, they seemed more like things that just happened in sequence. That might’ve been saved had the choreography been as engaging, but then again, perhaps the choreography couldn’t be as engaging because instead of hinting at a rich, mysterious history, we get little data points that remove the mystery without being especially clarifying.
For example, we find out Wick’s history: He seems to have been some sort of Slavic (Russian?) orphan who was raised in an assassin/ballet school by Anjelica Huston. He’s owed a number of favors, which is the only way he can survive now that he has been declared excommunicado. And to get out of his predicament, he has to go see the Big Cheese (I forget what they call him in the movie, but he’s the Big Bad, the Cheese, the Head Honcho of the Underworld), and he agrees to become a (metaphorical) dog to that guy.
Now, it had already taken us too long to get there. We had a whole unnecessary segment involving Halle Berry. She does okay but she doesn’t have Reeves elan as an action hero. (Catwoman should have been evidence enough for that.) But together they go visit a guy who, predictably, betrays them and yet despite being deep in his fortress, getting out for them is super easy, barely an inconvenience. It was one thing in the first movie when the Russian mobsters didn’t know they were dealing with John Wick, but here we’re talking about a general in this Underground army.
I feel like the second movie didn’t rely quite so heavily on disposable baddies. And in the long run this segment with Berry amounts to nothing, unless it pays off in the inevitable sequel.
But then, when you get there, I feel like Wick is diminished by dealing with the Big Boss. The secondary plot is that Mr. Big (Mr. Boss?) has sent his heavies around to all the people who helped John Wick, because that was in violation of the rules. Their fates seemed sort of random to us. The Adjuticator is played by Asia Kate Dillon, whose character is a dubious choice: She comes off like a hall monitor, ineffably smug because she’s protected by Mr. Big. This wasn’t fun, but I sort of imagine that it’s going to pay off in the next movie, when she is horribly murdered.
But that’s not a great payoff, honestly. Mostly, if Wick has an adversary worthy of the name, they’re more or less cool or menacing. Supercilious is a bad look. Given how many death sentences she delivers, it was inconceivable to me that one of them wouldn’t just kill her.
Probably what pushed me into the “Meh” category was the end, which I can’t discuss without SPOILERS, so beware if you care.
In the end, Winston (Ian McShane) does a heel turn, ambushing John Wick (who apparently lost his plot armor) and shooting him off the top of a building. So he’s riddled with bullets and falls 22 stories (the Flatiron building in NYC) but I don’t need to tell you he lives. None of this worked for me: Winston has put himself out for the entire movie, and the previous one, but all of a sudden flips on Wick. (Wick, by the way, was given the assignment to kill Winston, but instead defends him. And it’s only after this defense that McShane flips). It’s possible that this is a decoy heel turn—in fact, it seems impossible that it isn’t a decoy, but if so they’re cheating by selling this turn at points when no one (other than audience) is watching.
But if it’s not a decoy, John Wick was shot a bazillion times (though they have the super bullet-proof armor-cloth) and fell 22 stories. So he’s basically indestructible unless there was some secret plot to mitigate some of the apparent damage he took. I don’t see a good way out.
But when you get down to it, the battles are the song-and-dance of this movie, and that mostly didn’t work for me or The Boy. But it did work for The Flower, which probably gives you a sense of who is or isn’t going to like this.