" I have heard of the arrogant male in capitalistic society. It is having a superior earning power that makes you that way. "
— Greta Garbo, Ninotchka

MRQE Top Critic

Alias: Season Three

In its third season, Alias pulls off a hat trick with another round of pulpy page-turner adventure —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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Chapter 3 is an exhilarating ride through John Wick’s ever-expanding world of gritty action.

Masculinity Reborn

John Wick doesn't horse around
John Wick doesn’t horse around

And to think it all started with a puppy.

The wince-per-minute stat for this chapter has hit an all-new high. The fight sequences are relentless. Brutal. Beautiful.

Yes. Beautiful. This is real movie action. The Wick series is on par with what George Miller did with the return of Mad Max in Fury Road. This is about human feats of physicality — not CGI. Sure, there’s digital trickery here and there. Of course. But in comparison to Marvel’s method for mayhem, this is old school filmmaking. And it’s pretty darn glorious. The current state of CGI simply can’t compete with the power of the punch.

Props, then, to all the stunt artists. They create one ridiculously intricate action sequence after another. There’s Wick fending off lethally-aggressive motorcyclists while on horseback; Wick demonstrating novel uses for hardcover books in the New York Public Library; Wick tackling any number of highly-skilled mercenaries and assassins in richly-decorated environments filled with glass cases just waiting to be smashed to smithereens as the human bodies fly and collide. It’s crazy. And it’s crazy good.

But, as a bonus, the plot keeps thickening and the intrigue keeps growing and growing. The world of John Wick has unexpectedly become so much more fascinating and complicated than the world of James Bond.

Maybe most important, though, is this thought: John Wick is making it safe to be masculine again. He’s a good man. He loved — revered — his wife. And he loved the pup she arranged as a gift to remember her by.

But don’t piss him off.

Gun Fu Fighting

Chapter 3 (now carrying an additional subtitle, Parabellum, as a further indication of the up-tick in the series’ sophistication) picks up right where Chapter 2 left off. John Wick (Keanu Reeves, The Matrix) has been granted a 1-hour head start to try to save himself before all hell breaks loose.

Everybody who’s anybody — along with a whole lot of nobodies — knows John Wick. Taxi drivers. Homeless vagabonds. Sushi chefs. Wick has a reputation. And it certainly doesn’t help his anonymity to have a $14 million bounty hanging over his head.

As Wick works to save his own life, his world continues to build out as an increasingly-colorful tapestry of characters and rules.

It’s all about the rules. And order. As the refrain goes, that’s what separates us from the animals. In Parabellum, those rules are even more intricately defined as an adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon, Orange Is the New Black on Netflix) brings the assassin’s law — and creed — into the picture.

With the grace period expired, and Wick hunting season now open, Wick scurries off to Casablanca to meet with the Elder behind the league of assassins. Wick’s looking for some way to compensate for breaking rule one: No business shall be conducted on Continental grounds.

From there, twists and turns take Wick back to New York City. And it’s not really much of a spoiler to say that subtitle, Parabellum (defined as “preparation for war”), is really a setup for what could be an even wilder Chapter 4.

Wick of Morocco

From the get-go, the John Wick series has never had a problem attracting top talent. In addition to Reeves, there’s Ian McShane (HBO’s Deadwood), Willem Dafoe (The English Patient), Common (the rapper) and Laurence Fishburne (Ant-Man and the Wasp).

Now add to that list Halle Berry (Die Another Day) and — surprise! — Anjelica Huston (Prizzi’s Honor). Their characters further flesh out Wick’s back story. It goes deep with debts owed, debts paid and obligations yet unfulfilled.

As Wick’s human story is further revealed — and as his body is put through physical demands Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Indiana Jones couldn’t possibly comprehend — his legend grows ever more grand. Winston (McShane) refers to him as the Baba Yaga, a supernatural force in Russian folklore.

And that’s one area that — hopefully — will be more fully exploited explored — in Chapter 4. There are a few times when Chapter 3 steps right on the edge of hardcore mysticism. There’s the trip to Casablanca and a journey through the Sahara (he’s advised to keep walking until he’s almost dead — and then keep walking). It’s a bit of a tease the constellation that guides his quest is Canis Major — the Greater Dog. More could’ve been made of that setup. But, simply having the idea floating out there is rather juicy.

And there’s also a nifty sequence in Grand Central Terminal which nods to the Chinese mystic arts. Oh. And the ending of Chapter 3. Wow. As with Chapter 2, it’s a cliffhanger setup for the next chapter. But this time, there was an avenue of mysticism that was sidestepped.

C’mon, John Wick. Next time, let’s go there!