Neither the first “John Wick” movie from 2014 nor its 2017 follow-up did enough business to warrant an official review from me. How I wish they had. I could have written about how much fun I had watching Keanu Reeves play the world’s greatest assassin amidst a world full of assassins. The second movie in particular had me beaming for hours afterward, trying to whittle down which scene was my favorite before giving up and declaring something like a five-way tie. Now comes a third movie, which I wish we had gotten right after the second. How come “The Matrix” gets two sequels less than six months apart from one another and this vastly superior franchise doesn’t?

At the end of the second movie, John Wick (Reeves) let his emotions get the better of him and killed an enemy within the consecrated walls of the Continental hotel. The Continental, run by a man named Winston (Ian McShane) and his concierge Charon (Lance Reddick) is supposed to be a safe haven for assassins, and anyone who violates this rule incurs the death penalty. Winston could have killed Wick himself, but opted instead to excommunicate him from his community of assassins, with a $14 million bounty on his life going into effect in one hour.

In “Chapter 3,” we see what happens when that hour is up. Several New York-based assassins try to collect the bounty, and Wick has to fend them off without underworld privileges like guns and cars. He has to settle for using a heavy book as a weapon and a horse for transportation (and also a weapon). He makes his way to a Russian ballet Director (Angelica Huston) who can send him to Morocco, where he has an old friend (Halle Berry) who can put him in contact with his world’s High Elder so he can beg for his life. Meanwhile, an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), who works for this world’s High Table, is using an assassin of her own (Mark Dacascos) to punish those who helped Wick escape justice, including The Director, underworld crime boss The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), and Winston. The High Table is willing to deconsecrate The Continental in order to punish someone whose crime was violating the sanctity of The Continental - how’s that for logic?

The high points of the movie are of course the gleeful action sequences where Wick dispatches one would-be killer after another. His favorite method is a gunshot to the head, but he’s not above breaking into a knife museum and using whatever he can find in there. The fighting is always crisp with no wasted motion. And it’s worth mentioning that Wick and the other assassins are all professionals, and they’re excellent about not harming or even bothering innocent bystanders. An early fight scene takes place in a library, and Wick and his attacker don’t get shushed once.

“John Wick: Chapter 3” is the usual trigger-happy good time I’ve come to expect from this franchise. My only real complaint is the ending, where some of the fighting seems rushed (Wick should get more time to fight with two henchmen that I recognize from a certain Indonesian action franchise) and nothing feels resolved. Granted, nobody promised that this installment would represent a resolution, but could this movie be a little less blatant about sequel-baiting? I’m already sold on “Chapter 4” because I like these movies, not because it’s implying a series of showdowns that frankly we could have gotten here. On the other hand, what am I complaining about? We’re getting more “John Wick” movies and that’s a good thing!

Grade: B

“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” is rated R for pervasive strong violence, and some language. Its running time is 130 minutes.

I should start off by saying that I’m not a fan of “Pokémon.” I have never found the game or its creatures to be cute, funny, interesting, or worthwhile. Except for Squirtle the Turtle, who I just “get” because of my love of turtles. But I feel that it’s important for you to know that this review is not coming from a place of fandom. If you or someone in your family is indeed a fan of Pokémon, they will probably like this movie more than I did. I’ve been told that many people who don’t like Pokémon do in fact like this movie (it’s currently sitting at a 63% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the best-reviewed video game adaptation of all time), but I am not one of them.

And I tried to give this movie a chance, I really did. I was looking forward to a grittier Pokémon movie where cat-thing Pikachu’s incessant repetition of his own name was replaced with Ryan Reynolds smart-aleckry. Deadpool trying his hand at a children’s franchise was something I had to see. I knew he couldn’t be too crude in this PG-rated movie (though a surprising amount of smutty jokes make it into the film), but I was looking forward to seeing how his general attitude would translate. Sadly, “Pokémon” dopiness wins out over “Deadpool” irreverence.

The movie takes place in Ryme City where humans and Pokémon live side by side. Supposedly they’re equals in contributing to society, but I didn’t see the Pokémon bringing many skills to the table, with the unsurprising exception of Squirtle, who can put out fires. Tim (Justice Smith) is the estranged teenage son of detective Harry (whose casting is a surprise), who has to travel to the city when he learns his father’s been killed. At Harry’s apartment, Tim runs into Pikachu, who was apparently Harry’s partner, though a recent bout of amnesia has left him unclear on the details. Also, Tim can hear Pikachu speaking in Reynolds’ voice, where everyone else just hears “Pika Pika.”

Pikachu believes that Harry is still alive somewhere, and that solving a case they were working together will help reunite him with his son. Tim and Pikachu form an uneasy alliance and team up with aspiring reporter Lucy (Kathryn Newton) to investigate Ryme City’s seedy underbelly. They wind up in front of founder Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) who believes that his son (Chris Geere) is performing illegal experiments on Pokémon and that Harry was about to thwart him. The son is clearly not sharp enough to be the movie’s Big Bad, and I gritted my teeth waiting for the obvious “real” villain to be revealed. The final showdown occurs during a sloppy mass panic where even Ken Watanabe (who made the film seem respectable in an earlier scene as Harry’s captain) can’t maintain his dignity.

The action scenes are lame, Tim and Lucy are shoddy human protagonists, and the worldbuilding is a knockoff of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” without the legendary chemistry. On top of that, we get a last-minute twist that makes Tim look like the least-cognizant person on the planet. A lot rides on what Reynolds can bring to the table, and of course he’s the best thing about this movie (I even found myself quoting some of his dialogue at work the next day), with my favorite bit being a tearful version of the “Pokemon” theme that he sings while wallowing in self-pity, but he’s not enough to save the movie as a whole. I’d recommend crossing “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” off your list of suspects for which movie to see.

Grade: C-

“Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” is rated PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor, and thematic elements. Its running time is 104 minutes.

Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.

Last Update: May 21, 2019 10:17 am CDT

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