"John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum" Except
Adam: So Josh, as best as I can remember "John Wick: Chapter 2," Keanu Reeves spent at least half the running time of that film with a bounty on his head in New York City, with assassins attacking him left and right. And this movie, "John Wick. Chapter 3 – Parabellum," seems to pick up pretty much exactly where that movie left off. He has been given a little bit of a head start, but has been excommunicated from this system that they all seem to exist under. The rule of the High Table – he's been excommunicated from that. And it's crazy how this movie begins and how he spends most of its running time pretty much with a bounty on his head trying to survive against assassins who are attacking him from everywhere, and most of it in New York City. Even so, there's a lot of familiar ground here in "Parabellum." This was pretty easy as far as coming up with a setup question for you because I already came up with it a few weeks ago when we did our summer movie preview. My number two question of the summer movie season was, "Will 'John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum," continue the mythologizing of "Chapter 2," or get back to the mystery of "John Wick." In other words would this movie, like the second one for me, get too caught up in all of the rules and regulations of the High Table and the secret society, or stick to the enigma that is John Wick and his motivations and his quest not only for survival, but for some kind of meaning? But I'm going to table that one. You're welcome to answer but listeners are going to hear us in a short time extol the virtues of Keanu Reeves as a screen actor. They're going to hear our Top Five Keanu Reeves Moments, and spoiler alert – we're both going to have a scene from "John Wick" in our top five. But I'm curious about is whether there's a single moment from "Chapter 3 – Parabellum," that would be in contention if you had time now to completely rethink your list.
Josh: No. [Laughs]
Adam: I had a feeling you were gonna say that.
Josh: Yeah, I don't think this is making the best use of Reeves. I think it's coasting on what it managed to get from him, primarily in "John Wick," and a little bit in the second film. I think this is definitely a case of diminishing returns. I'm not putting that on him as much. I think he's bringing his all to this, especially in some of these fight sequences. There's one in an antique weapons shop, and I think it is after hours, where he comes up against a bunch of these bad guys and they just start breaking the glass of the display cases and grabbing whatever they can to fight each other. Mostly knives, hatchets, I don't know if we get to an axe. I think it may stop at hatchet – to my relief at that point. Not a lot of gunplay yet, so there's a very sort of tactile visceral element to that fight scene. And Reeves is amazing as are the other stuntmen attacking him. It's a prolonged scene – a lot of single takes, but also, the returning director, Chad Stahelski knowing when to cut and just give us full bodies in motion. Obviously, with a stunt background this is something he's brought to the series overall. Now I also noticed something in that scene that happens at the end and kind of sets the table for where a lot of this movie goes, and it ties to your question about Reeves and how the movie uses Reeves. There's what I'm going to call... You know, "kill shot," is a phrase we're familiar with. I'm sensing that this movie is relying more on what I'm to call a "kill gag." And I'm not going to give that one away, but that sequence ends with... You can imagine what I mean. It's a kill shot that's meant sort of as a joke but also as an elevation of what we've come to expect from this series in terms of gore a little bit. The extremity of the violence? Where the victim is being stabbed? I don't think it undercuts that scene entirely but there is a later scene I am going to give away, another fight sequence in a stable. And here John Wick... I don't know if he, like, slaps the horse or does something–
Adam: He does the first time.
Josh: –to get the horse to kick the assailant and basically bash his head in. To me that is– I know we don't use the phrase "jump the shark" anymore, but that's the "kill gag," where I feel like John Wick has kind of gone off track, and here's why. It's not using Reeves. It's no longer at that point. The fight scene is less about Wick. It's not about his motivations, it's not about his anger, it's not about his technique. These are all things we're gonna talk about in our top five – what Reeves brings as an action figure. It's just more about the violence itself. It's about the shock of that moment trying to top previous moments in terms of the unexpected nature, the use of something as a weapon, and I think the more kill gags we get the less Reeves we get, and that's to the series' detriment.