There’s a lot I love about John Wick 3: Parabellum, beginning with the first scene. John Wick — played by Keanu Reeves, of course — kills a bad guy with a book. He just props it up on a table and places the base of the guy’s skull on it and fatally hobbles him, like American History X meets Misery. That’s only one of the creative, brutal stunts in the movie, which had me wondering if this is the best stunt choreography I’ve seen since vintage Jackie Chan.
And the world building! John Wick lives in a universe where the criminal underworld is organized under a strict corporate umbrella known as “The High Table,” which employs a team of no-nonsense, tattoo-covered switchboard operators dressed and styled like ’50s waiters and housewives, where the women look like strippers from Portland and the men like members of My Chemical Romance. They work in a place that looks like a cross between a stock exchange and a casino counting room, where the names of the “excommunicado,” those marked for death, like John Wick, are marked on a big chalkboard and called out like the day’s specials. Today, John Wick’s life is worth $14 million. Tick tock, John Wick.
Some of the gangs organized underneath the high table include a team of assassins dressed as homeless men led by Laurence Fishburne’s character, who also raises pigeons. “You see flying rats, I see… the internet,” he says at one point, which is funny to begin with, but extra funny when it’s Morpheus. There’s another, slightly less creatively realized gang of sushi chef/martial arts students led by Mark Dacascos — also known as The Chairman from Iron Chef America.
It’s all fun enough, mostly skating that line between cool and stupid. But discussing the world-building in John Wick is sort of like admiring the drapes in a porn movie. We come for the brutal killings; we stay for the brutal killings. And there are lots! There’s an entire fight scene incorporating Belgian Malinois, which seem to have been trained only to bite dicks. A fight scene incorporating vicious dick dogs was something I hadn’t seen in an action film before, and it was nice.