Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. December is John Wick Month!
The Movie: “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane
Director: Chad Stahelski
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) John Wick is on the run after killing a member of the international assassins’ guild, and with a $14 million price tag on his head, he is the target of hit men and women everywhere.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89 percent
Brown: I didn’t think the John Wick movies could get any nuttier.
Then “John Wick 3” happened. And 12 hours after watching it, my mouth is still apage.
What started as a Charles Bronson-like revenge plot with a world-class assassin in the first “John Wick” delved deeper into a world of hotel chains and people that love pigeons as much as Mike Tyson in “John Wick 2.”
Now, in the final installment of John Wick Month, we get… bureaucracy?
… That’s not the interesting part. We’ll get into that.
Froemming, as we look to make our last stand on John Wick Month with a vault full of guns and a death wish, give us some thoughts on the end of the month and the year 2020, which we shall all take a cue from “Community” and refer to as the “Gas Leak Year.”
Froemming: Let us never speak of this year again. It basically kicked off with Adam Sandler Month and the horror only got worse from there. I mean, New Years Eve is this week and I feel everyone in the world will look like Lt. Dan when 2021 hits.
Also, whomever wrote this third John Wick movie must hate bureaucrats almost as much as Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson hate libraries. Because there is a lot of it in this, and it is arguably the most boring parts of the movie. Because, let’s face it, there is nothing exciting about being a bureaucrat, even if you look like a kick-ass one like The Adjudicator in this.
Brown, let me saddle up my horse to use as a weapon against hired goons as you kick this off.
Brown: After we get a brief James Bond-like introduction to “John Wick 3,” we see the aftermath of the second movie.
To bring you back up to speed: John Wick killed Santino D’Antonio, the newest member of the High Table, on the grounds of the Continental Hotel. Winston, the hotel manager, has informed John Wick that he is excommunicato from Continental services and now has a $14 million bounty on his head from every assassin around the globe (or that’s connected to this weird-ass business of Great Depression-era technology that runs the underground).
Winston has given John Wick an hour head start. So, Wick follows the advice of his favorite song from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”:
Froemming: And, like I mentioned last review, a solid 35 percent of the population in NYC is a gun-for-hire, so they are all waiting for the clock to strike 6 p.m. so they can attempt to take out a guy who single-handedly took out a crime family AND a member of the High Table. As Winston says, they have a 50/50 shot at this.
Wick is running around and makes for the library, which based on the patrons in this place, the citizens of the Big Apple hate libraries as much as almost as much as Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson.
Wick asks for the section on Russian folklore and heads to this area of the place, where he opens a book and in it we see there is a Marker and a crucifix/rosary thing and a photo of his wife.
Look, New York is full of hipsters who pretend to read obscure books. How did this book never get checked out? That is quite the gamble Wick pulled here. The other side of that argument is this: Americans hate reading books more than anything.
Brown: Back up. You skipped over a lot of things here.
First, when John Wick is running through New York, he runs into the Tick-Tock Man, a homeless gentleman played by Jason (REDACTED) Mantzoukas! He’s on “How Did This Get Made,” which is probably the biggest influence on the JOE-DOWN.
Froemming: Oh boy, OK let’s hear your theory on how this is all a Jacob’s Ladder scenario going on for John Wick.
Brown: I don’t need to. It’s obvious. Also, I’m honestly surprised that Jason didn’t offer use of his toilet kitchen to John Wick.
Second cameo, and perhaps the most disturbing… there’s a (REDACTED) Frank Stallone song in this movie. When John Wick starts walking up the library stairs, you hear a quartet of people outside singing this ditty from “Rocky.”
Froemming: I am to Frank Stallone what George Costanza is to Christian rock:
Also, can a song qualify as a cameo?
Brown: I’m counting it. When I had to come to grips that the end credits was indeed a song by (REDACTED) Bush, I saw Frank Stallone’s name in the credits and my jaw hit the floor. I firmly believe that John Wick and Rocky Balboa exist in the same universe.
Our third cameo: When John Wick gets into the library and grabs his Russian literature packed with a photo of his wife, a rosary, a marker and more coins, he’s accosted by NBA player Boban Marjanovic. Dude is 7-foot-4 and one of the most delightful goofball athletes in America today.
… And he meets his end via literature. Reading kills, kids. Stick with TV.
Froemming: Well, we knew based on “Parks and Rec” that famed NBA player Detlef Schrempf wouldn’t be caught dead in a library. So Boban had to do.
Brown: During the fight, John Wick does take a knife to the neck/traps region, so he’s off to find an underground doctor mere minutes before his rights to use said doctor will expire. The clock hits 6 p.m. and John has to finish stitching himself. The doc says the High Table won’t like that he helped John after the countdown (he told John where to find some pain meds) and has John shoot him twice (in non-lethal areas) to keep up appearances.
Dude didn’t even have to make a co-pay beforehand. The American healthcare system is broken.
Froemming: The John Wick Underworld Health Care Plan seems pretty good.
So, Wick is on the run again and we get two action sequences I want to bring up. One, we get a pretty gruesome knife-in-the-eyeball murder that made me a little grossed out. Then, we see John Wick run to a horse stable that is in downtown Manhattan (?) and he slaps the butts of horses so they kick some goons in the head.
Holy (REDACTED)! I had forgotten about that. This movie is bonkers.
Brown: Between the knife fight in the antiques weapon shop (?) and the final fight of the movie at the Continental basement (?), there is glass being shattered everywhere. This ran through my head any time glass broke.
Now, during the stable fight… we’ve seen some shit in these movies. But John Wick using a horse to kick the brains in of hired goons MULTIPLE times? That deserves a chef’s kiss.
I wonder if one of those New York City horses were the brother or sister of Buttercup, the diabetic horse that died when a cop-killer stoner fed it too much candy.
Froemming: “Half Baked” is the only stoner comedy I have ever enjoyed.
With his options limited, because he broke the rules and once again I ask…
He seeks help from The Director played by the always great Angelica Houston. She runs a screwed-up ballet school that I think is underfunded by John du Pont since there is a Foxcatcher Farm-style wrestling school there too.
Brown: I think it was more like sambo, which is hand-to-hand combat that Russian special forces use. It all blends together.
Froemming: I said what I said.
Anywho, John gets a meeting with her, since he has a crucifix, which is a ticket (?) and she owes him a favor.
We also learn, as John makes his request for passage to Casablanca, that his real name is Jardani Jovonovich and here is a clip of his origin story:
Brown: Pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel.
I was not prepared for John Wick to be some goon from behind the Iron Curtain. I absolutely believe he was a central figure behind Russian interference in the 2016 election. I also wonder if he knows where the pee tape is.
So while John Wick gets an all-expenses paid trip to Casablanca (or something), the Continental is visited by an Adjudicator (played by Asia Kate Dillon) representing the High Table to find out about John Wick’s whereabouts. In one fell swoop, she tells Winston and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne, if you remember from the second movie) they have a week to get their affairs in order before they’re removed from their posts. She also visits a sushi shop that is apparently run by one of the top assassins in New York: Zero (played by Mark Dacascos).
Again, we’ve seen all sorts of crazy shit in these movies. At this point, we’re, what, 20 minutes removed from a horse being used as a weapon? Now, a bureaucrat enters the fray.
Thanks for ruining my high, movie.
Froemming: I think Zero is the alias of Jimmy Lee from “Double Dragon.”
Brown: Oh shit! I didn’t put that together. Keanu Reeves is being hunted down by The Chairman from “Iron Chef America!”
Froemming: This movie is crazy enough to exist in that cinematic universe.
While The Adjudicator is going crazy on Winston and The Bowery King with their Big Book of Boring Rules, which again…
…John arrives in Casablanca, where he is stalked right away by more hired goons. We find out he is here to call in his Marker with Sofia (Halle Berry), who is hiding out in this country after the shame she brought upon the world with that “Catwoman” movie nobody ever talks about.
She also has dogs. The more dogs I see in these movies, the more my anxiety goes up on the prospects of these poor pooches getting murdered as a plot device.
These Markers seem more trouble than they are worth. They cause a lot of pointless problems in this world. They are pretty much what Michael Corleone was talking about here…
Brown: There’s one point where Sofia says that markers don’t mean shit and even if she fulfills it, she and John will not be equal. So… why not shoot John Wick in the head yourself and collect the bounty? Yeah, it’s not honorable and it would be on Continental grounds, but I feel like management could get away with that.
Froemming: Well, no. They can’t. That is the entire plot for Winston in this movie.
Brown: Wasn’t Ms. Perkins killed on the grounds of the Continental in the first movie? It really seemed like she was. I was under the impression that Winston didn’t want to kill John Wick because they’d developed a friendship.
Froemming: Ms. Perkins was shot by hired goons outside the hotel. It is never disclosed where she was shot. But I doubt it was on hotel grounds.
Brown: My working assumption is she was killed on the roof of the Continental. As we see later in this movie, you so much as put a hand on the stairs of the Continental, you are at the Continental, and patrons must follow the rules.
TL;DR: This movie series makes up shit as it goes along. Not that I’m not enjoying myself, but nothing makes sense.
Anyways,bound by the marker, Sofia takes John Wick to the place where Chuck E. Cheese assassin tokens are minted. The man running the show, Berrada, is cryptic about telling John where to find The Elder, the one man who is above the high table.
After the conversation, Berrada requests a gift from Sofia for listening to John Wick. He wants one of her dogs. Sofia declines. So… Berrada shoots one of the German shepards.
This is the only sound in my head for the next 10 minutes.
Everyone dies. And they deserve it. If you’ve learned ANYTHING from these movies, it’s that you don’t (REDACTED) with someone’s pet!
Froemming: Well, he shot the dog in a spot that stopped the bullet, but his gesture in attempting to kill the dog is enough for Sofia, John Wick and myself for them to go apeshit on him and his crew.
We also learn more confusing elements of these coins. There is no monetary value, they are more respect-based than gold-standard-based, which makes their economy just (REDACTED) baffling.
Brown: The economics of this world make less sense than Paddy’s Dollars.
Froemming: John, Sofia and the dogs fight their way out of this jam. And I swear John Wick hits people in the old bean bag more than Johnny Cage.
Brown: Between John Wick and Sofia’s dogs biting dudes in the groin, I think the birth rates in Morocco took a substantial hit. Well, killing all those dudes did the same thing, but you get my point.
After pretty much obliterating an entire village, Sofia drives John Wick out to the desert.
Froemming: She gives him a bottle of backwashed water and he sets out to find The Elder, who is above the High Table because the writers wrote themselves into a corner on how to proceed with this tale, so they made up some more bullshit. And John walks the desert like he is in Soundgarden.
He walks and walks until he passes out. And is rescued by the hired goons of the Elder.
Brown: Meanwhile, in America, the Adjudicator is making the rounds. With Zero and his hired goons going HAM on the ballet, the Director gets stigmata’d as penance for helping John Wick and defying the High Table. Down in the Bowery, our King gets cut seven times for giving John Wick a gun with seven bullets in the second movie.
All this over a murder at a hotel. God help us all if this Adjudicator worked at a Motel 6.
Brown: Back to John Wick meeting The Elder, John is looking to make amends. The Elder gives him a choice: Either he is killed by The Elder’s hired goons, or John recommits to the High Table by killing Winston so he can continue to live and honor his wife by keeping her in his memories (which was John’s wish).
Ultimately, John wants to live, so he will work under the High Table for the rest of his life. As an act of fealty, John cuts off his ring finger and offers his wedding band to The Elder.
I’d say The Elder could pawn off that ring for spending money but, well, John and Sofia massacred the nearest town so I guess he’s screwed.
So, John Wick is headed back to New York to do his best Brennan and Dale impression from “Step Brothers”:
Froemming: Oh yeah, Zero’s gang is more than happy to attack John right when he gets into the city. Hell, they even take out some other chucklehead assassins eyeing Wick because, you know, $15 million is a lot of money.
So Zero and his crew do this weird Batman-like vanishing act in crowds of people, and then the action hits and we have motorcycle chases and John Wick beating the bejesus out of these guys as Zero just sort of watches. This action goes on until John Wick slaps his hand on the stairs of the Continental and, like the Highlander with Holy Ground, is spared from more fighting.
Brown: Or, as I put it to you on Facebook Messenger: It was like reaching the bottom rope in a wrestling match.
So like we’ve seen in previous movies, both John Wick and Zero go into the Continental as friends while John waits for a meeting with Winston. Hell, Zero fanboys over John Wick and does the whole “We’re the same” schtick.
Froemming: Zero sitting right next to John on the couch, violating Wick’s buffer zone, was probably the funniest part of the movie. John just gets up and sits in a different chair.
And yes, Zero treats Wick like George Costanza treats Tony:
John is summoned to the Administrative Lounge, which is nothing but one giant panic attack for John McClane with all the potential broken glass.
Brown: I wrote in my notes that John Wick and Winston met in “Blade Runner.”
Winston knows the score: John Wick is there to kill him. But, Winston talks to John and convinces him that it would be better to go out as a man who loved and adored his wife instead of The Boogeyman for the High Table.
This resonates with John. So when the Adjudicator arrives, Winston says he refuses to resign and John will not kill him. So, the Continental is deconsecrated and now, John, Winston, Charon (the concierge who wishes he was Lavar Burton) and the hotel staff (??) have to fight for their lives against High Table hired goons.
Aside from the cliche-as-all-hell classical music underscoring a violent shootout, it’s another top-notch John Wick action-filled shootout.
While this is going on, the Adjudicator is staying in her room in the Continental. She does realize there’s other safer hotels in New York where she can sit in the dark, right? Hell, stay at Trump Tower for all I care. It’s all safer than a building where literal warfare is happening.
Froemming: Winston refusing to leave his job will be Trump next month, won’t it?
Also, since John is already this deep, why not just shoot The Adjudicator dead? What do they have to offer him at this point? He just straight-up defied The Elder.
Logic be damned, because John is fighting a couple of busloads of hired goons with pretty good armor, so good he needs to get some big guns from Winston to blow these dudes away.
After he does this, he gets to the level of the video game that is just before the Boss Level: Fighting two of Zero’s goons in the glass room.
Brown: With the armored gun fight, I put in my notes that it’s like in a video game where you are completely unprepared for a level and get your shit wrecked. When they go back down to the basement to load up on shotguns (the ultimate video game weapon), that’s how we all adjust after said shit-wrecking.
Froemming: I just looked it up and there is a John Wick video game. It looks lousy. I am amazed whomever made that screwed up the perfect beat-em-up game premise.
Anyway, John fights these two guys, eventually slamming them through a glass floor, which seems like the most impractical thing to make a floor out of.
And now it is Boss Level: Fighting Jimmy from “Double Dragon.”
Froemming: I want to see Wick fight Abobo.
It is a thrilling fight that includes John punching a sword into the poor son-of-a-bitch.
Once The Adjudicator realizes the plan has basically backfired, they call a meeting with Winston for a parlay. Wick walks into this meeting bloody and beaten, only to realize Winston was not willing to sacrifice his power and he shoots John right off the top of the building.
And nobody checks to make sure he is dead.
Brown: I laughed at this. John Wick Michael Myers’d the High Table.
Froemming: Well, he is saved by Rafi, who I imagine was enjoying some pocket dogs and saw John fall from the top of the building.
Brown: Look at his face while he’s carrying John Wick away!
Rafi is absolutely delivering John Wick to Dirty Randy to put into one of his pornos they film in Andre’s condo.
Froemming: John Wick is brought to The Bowery King, who has seen better days since he was brutally cut seven times by Bimmy. We see these two are pretty pissed off by all that has happened, and my guess this sets up a war between them and the High Table in the next movie.
Brown: Which we will absolutely review when it hits theaters, COVID-19 be damned!
Froemming, let’s hop onto our Manhattan stallions and ride off to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Yup. Out of the three movies, I’d put this at number two since this is the John Wick that really seemed to embrace its absurdity.
Froemming: Oh yeah, these movies are so much fun.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: