The third “John Wick” movie has arrived in Manhattan. It is named after an early 20th century Mauser pistol — ”Parabellum,” which could be translated “prepare for war.” That may be the translation printed on the screen during an armory scene, when the word itself is introduced.
There are several short spates of on-screen translation of spoken non-English in this film. But they are short. In fact, there isn’t all that much spoken language even including English in the movie. Like all “John Wick” films, it is almost entirely about fighting.
The audience, which is there partly in reaction to years of censorship by the holier-than-thou politically correct, doesn’t want talking. They want the latest generation of choreography — Astaire via Chan channeled through “first person shooter” video games.
And, oh, how we enjoy the movement. The sword swipes. The dagger stabbings. The ducking back behind pillars to avoid gunfire. In one underwater scene, the bullets are slowed down enough that our anti-hero can see them and dodge them.
The shootings. The shootings. The shootings. The body count is down from the first two movies, but Wick still manages to off, one would guess, over a hundred different parties.
What else do you do to guys who don’t like dogs?
The saga began with the scion of a mob family stealing Wick’s car and killing his dog. That beagle pup was supposed to help him get over the loss of his wife to illness. The dog’s death brought him out of retirement and sent him out for revenge.
Then it was rainy and dark, the set colors predominately black and blue, with lots of glass. And it was kill, kill, kill. The second film repeated the formula but expanded the explanation of the odd New York City Wick lives in.
The hit men and women of the world all (except the retired Wick) pay homage to a board of criminal directors, “The High Table.” In each major city there is a “Continental” hotel, stocked with guns and other weapons. Professional killers can stay in these hotels, but they are not allowed to kill anyone on the premises.
Wick violates that rule in “John Wick 2.” But the New York hotel manager, Winston (Ian “Lovejoy” McShane) allows his old customer an hour’s reprieve before industry-wide sanctions are enforced on him. The third film begins with the minutes ticking down until a $14 million contract on Wick’s life goes into force.
Some fans could do without any of the fantastic story circumstances. We’re don’t go to the theater to be told about rules. We go to watch rules violated. Note, please, that there are no police to intervene anywhere in the new movie. Less apparatus. More straight stuff, please.
Nevertheless, “Parabellum” adds more to the set of conditions under which murder for hire is carried out. It does this mostly to work in additional characters played by Laurence Fishburne (held over from the last movie), Anjelica Huston (representing the Russian mob, of which Wick was once a member), and Halle Berry.
Berry plays another old associate of Wick’s. She lives in Casablanca and keeps a couple of police dogs. So the dog scheme continues.
The action will take us through New York’s Chinatown and the Bowery, to a ballet theater, out into the Sahara, and through the mirrored galleries of the NYC Continental where Wick will face waves of attacks, from armored agents of the High Table, the students of a local sushi chef, and then the blowfish butcher himself.
Viewers who don’t like no-end endings to films will want to be warned. Otherwise “Parabellum” is likely to give moviegoers what they want. Which is simple. What they want is what their self-appointed betters don’t want them to get.