John Wick 3 is here. It is very good and very fun and absolutely stuffed with dogs, horses, and betrayal. I watched it opening weekend, as is my policy with movies in which Keanu Reeves plays an assassin who likes dogs and horses and gets betrayed. Below, please find eight thoughts I had about all of it. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts later. I can’t wait to watch this three times a month on cable in a year or two. Until then, there’s this.
1. I’ll tell you what I respect most about the John Wick franchise, and especially about this third installment: In every scene, sometimes at multiple points in the same scene, it feels like someone asked “What’s the coolest and wildest shit we could do right now?” and then they went right ahead and did that. Use a horse as a weapon? Sure. Stage a fight in a hallway lined with knives in display cases and have everyone huck knives at each other for a few minutes? Done. Have Ian McShane sit in a luxurious panic room and casually sip brown liquor while war breaks out all around him in the Continental? Yup. That is in the movie, too. Ninety percent of McShane’s role as Winston in this movie is sipping liquor and reacting to text alerts, sometimes with a scowl but usually with a concerned muttering of “Oh, Jonathan.” The other 10 percent… we’ll get to later.
The movies have gotten a lot bigger since the first one. What started as a story about a guy who was pissed about someone killing his dog has turned into a globe-trotting tale of one very talented man versus the entire world. It’s not exactly “Dominic Toretto goes from a lunch counter owner who steals DVD players at night to the intelligence community’s only hope against a notorious cyber-anarchist played by Oscar-winner Charlize Theron,” but it is a heck of a journey. And it seems like everyone involved is taking the money this journey has earned them and putting it right back into the franchise to make it cooler and bigger and more fun. I respect that, too.
2. The first 30-40 minutes feature some of the craziest action you’ll ever see, including an extended scene in which John attempts to escape a squad of motorcycle-riding hitmen on horseback, and he succeeds, in large part due to an impressive set of gymnastics-inspired swinging and such. I have so many questions about this. Was this part of his training at Anjelica Huston’s Home For Troubled Youth Who Will Learn To Kill And/Or Do Ballet Or Else, or was he just winging it? How did this exceed the expectations I set in my brain after seeing that paparazzi shot of the scene a few months ago? What would you do if you were stuck in traffic and saw a bloodied man in a suit killing a dozen men on motorcycles? Etc. etc. etc.
The whole opening is like that. This movie, like the second, begins immediately after the action in the previous one ends, so there is never a moment to stop and breathe. It opens at full-speed and barely lets up even for a second until the credits roll. That’s how you do an action movie. The only real complaint I have about any of it is that I really did not want to see that ballerina pull off her toenail. I could have done without that. Someone in the theater I was in uttered a surprisingly audible “noooooo” when it happened. The person might have been me.
3. I really appreciate this franchise’s commitment to casting actors from my favorite television shows. Ian McShane (Al Swearengen from Deadwood) gliding around the hotel with Lance Reddick (The Wire, Bosch), Asia Kate Dillon (Taylor from Billions) forcing Jason Mantzoukas (guest spots in every comedy you like) to hold an umbrella while a message from the High Table is delivered. Jerome Flynn (Bronn from Game of Thrones) as a High Table-adjacent bigwig with a rooftop office in Casablanca. All of it. It’s almost like the films are now trying to pander to me, specifically, which is something I fully support and suggest more movies do going forward.
That wasn’t the best me-bait bit of casting, though. The best was Sixers backup center Boban Marjanovic showing up as a giant hitman with a giant foot he uses to kick John halfway across the New York Public Library. More movies should cast athletes from my favorite basketball team, too. Put Allen Iverson in the next Mission: Impossible movie. I’m barely joking.
4. We’ve barely mentioned this so far so let’s stop to fully appreciate it: Halle Berry is in John Wick 3 as a Casablanca-based Continental owner with a checkered past that includes a hidden daughter. There’s a lot going on in that sentence and all of it is pretty cool, as is the fact that she has two trained dogs that climb walls and attack bad guys and wear bulletproof vests. At one point, Bronn shoots one of her dogs and proceeds to get bit square in the jimmies until his white pants are soaked with crimson crotch stains. This franchise’s commitment to the principle that dogs are good is noble and something we should spend more energy recognizing, possibly via prestigious awards, preferably via a new Oscar category.
5. The time has come to talk about the all-glass skull-lined office in the Continental.
A few notes:
– It is profoundly funny that there’s this multi-story, multimillion-dollar office/museum in the middle of a hotel for assassins in Manhattan — a building we’ve been inside many times — and we’re just finding out about it in the third movie. There’s at least one giant video wall that plays what appears to be a Windows screensaver titled “Ayahuasca.” What a wonderful movie franchise.