John Wick’s kill count is stacking up while his dialogue holds steady at just under 400 words in the latest John Wick movie. It’s almost three hours long, and while some scenes require patience, it’s built in such a way that I wasn’t looking at my watch at all.
As expected, there is so much crazy stunt action, it’s wild. The first fight scenes that get the ball rolling don’t even have John Wick front and center. Of course, he is the reason everyone is fighting, but they make us wait for him. When he finally engages, it’s in a lit up art gallery of what appears to be historical Japanese war figures in the Continental Tokyo hotel; and it lasts for a nearly fifteen straight minutes of swift and brutal bludgeoning.
We also get the of hand-to-hand combat talents of Shimazu’s (Hiroyuki Sanada) daughter, Akira (Rina Sawayama). She literally climbs her way to victory in one stair scene that (no spoilers) had me laughing. Meanwhile, the bounty for John Wick continues to grow, much thanks to a new tracker in the mix played by Shamier Anderson. And he’s brought a dog – a beautiful Belgian Malinois that responds on a dime to commands like, “Nuts!” It’s exactly what you think. Gotta love the kick ass dogs throughout the John Wick saga.
Long time acquaintances and members of the High Table are back, including Winston (Ian McShane), and Caine (Donnie Yen), and The King (Lawrence Fishburne). Winston is my favorite, delivering great lines and holding the most hope for Jonathan. We travel from New York to Japan to Paris where they insert the essential car chase around the Arc de Triomphe. It plays out like a mashup of Frogger, Street Fighter, and Grand Theft Auto all in one. It’s an outstanding action sequence that blurs the lines between virtual production and actual stunt filming effortlessly. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few stunt guys who waddle and wail in the background just a little too much. But that’s me being nit-picky.
There’s a couple of new villains (keeping with the video game theme – think “bosses”). One of them is so cartoon-like his demise is inevitable. The other new guy, Marchese, is expertly annoying and douchey and looks a lot like an evil Harry Styles. However, it’s Bill Skarsgård, who some may recognize as Pennywise in IT, and he’s actually quite thrilling to watch.
While all of this action is front and center, the lighting and use of water is striking. From the half-lit faces during close-up dialogue to the streaks through the windows and the bouncing lights during physical action – it’s all very intentional. Water and reflection plays off of fight scenes and body movements, even parting like a curtain for our new favorite dog. I mentioned the stairs before, and they come back (again and again). And still, there’s a compelling story coming through that would keep my attention even without all of the notorious John Wick action. Oh, and stay past that long list of stunt actors and choreographers in the closing credits.
“Just have fun out there” – Winston.