Quick Reviews: 'John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum', 'Queen & Slim' | Keanu Reeves, Daniel Kaluuya
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM
Looking for some wall-to-wall, face-to-book action? John Wick 3: Chapter 3 – Parabellum has you covered. John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back again just minutes after the ending of the second movie, being hunted by assassins that are looking to collect their 14 million dollars for Wick’s head. Chapter 3 just might edge out the previous two for the best action (incredibly high bar) while pushing the limits of a narrow story a bit too far.
Once again the action sequences, fighting and stunt choreography is some of the best if not the best you can find right now. First one is right at the beginning and it leans more to entertainment value which was actually quite refreshing. After that they become technical achievements, the high points being a more gunless showdown in an antique shop and a scene at Hotel Continental which shows some stylish production and lighting design as well. A part of this is thanks to the on-screen presence of Reeves who gets to do a lot of the fighting himself. Halle Berry (as Sofia) and her faithful dogs also get a sequence to shine in.
Most of the film is just a major flex from the lighting and cinematography crew as all the set pieces are lit tastefully but yet with flair. It was actually one of the best things about the first movie so it’s great to see making a comeback now after the second one was more interested in upping the action level. All the action and non-action things are shot with wide and long takes but are also very much on the floor with the actors as well, director Chad Stahelski is making his vision clearer a Wick after Wick. Chapter 3 isn’t quite as consistently moving as the first one as it overstays its welcome at the hotel with a Moroccan side quest that really didn’t have much importance. The interesting stuff is where Wick has been, not where he will be.
Smileys: Stunt choreography, Keanu Reeves, lighting, directing
Frowneys: Some issues with runtime
Oh, also horses are part of the stunt crew now. And they’re kicking butts.
QUEEN & SLIM
Director Melina Matsoukas’ previous experience from directing music videos shows very much in her feature debut Queen & Slim as she works off of a script by Lena Waithe. She definitely has an eye for placing the subject to the frame in a powerful position, seen multiple times here. What happens with the film though is that it feels more like a 10-minute video for a 3 minute hit song with music dropping in and out as b-roll footage needs to be edited in.
Matsoukas leads the technical side with a confident hand as she finds the right times to place the viewer on the run with the two main characters, Queen and Slim, and times to leave them be while shooting wide and steady. The way the individuals are portrayed, you’d easily think that her strong-suit would be a story focused on one character. I’ll be excited to see if that is something she does next. Daniel Kaluuya as Slim is once again showing his award-noted talent as he really elevates the scenes especially with his facial expressions. His chemistry with Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen) is more friend-like rather than tinder-date-gone-right so thankfully they as actors are enjoyable to follow for most of the movie.
Overstuffed and messy screenplay is Queen & Slim’s downfall since it falls directly between surrealistic and straightforward, missing being either one. Scenes with domestic abuse, lashing out at a mechanic and demanding early flight are weird inclusions. The most obvious one is where there is simultaneously a sex scene and a protester killing an officer. You could move past it by claiming it to be for shock value but considering the atmosphere, it comes off tone deaf. The film moves the story awkwardly, having multiple times nothing meaningful happening or those things being brushed aside. Similarly characterisation is a mess, especially Queen who is an attorney is infuriating in her decisions and Slim whose coldness doesn’t reflect him in the beginning.
Smileys: Daniel Kaluuya, directing
Frowneys: Pacing, screenplay, characterisation
Could’ve been a cool short film or an anthology episode.