John Wick: Return of the assassin
What works spectacularly for the franchise is the extremely simple plot that, in a way, reminds us of our very own masala films
For a person to be elevated as a hero, it is not enough if friends and sycophants refer to him as one. It has to come from the opposing party, the very people who are out to kill him (Vivegam tried to do this unsuccessfully). In John Wick Chapter 1, when Michael Nyqvist's Viggo Tarasov narrates the story of Baba Yaga (The Boogeyman) to his son, Iosef, you understood the lethal nature of Keanu Reeves' now iconic hitman role. You didn't need a back story, you didn't need a training montage, and you didn't need to know what made him so. You didn't even care if John Wick was his real name. You were sold the moment you saw him walk around with messy hair, a poker-faced expression, and brandishing guns and knives of various shapes and sizes. All you knew about John Wick was that he was on a killing spree because of the murder of his dog. This very reason spawned a sequel, and come Friday, the third part of the franchise will hit the Indian screens.
What works spectacularly for the franchise is the extremely simple plot that, in a way, reminds us of our very own masala films, and also comes with a series of questions we often ask of our star vehicles. How does John Wick escape from every ambush? How do his guns never run out of bullets? Why does a bullet always just graze past him, or hit him in non-critical places? But that's the thing. Though your mind might be asking these questions, your heart continues to pound watching John Wick glide around these challenges that become more insurmountable with every passing minute. In Parabellum, John Wick is set to face his biggest challenge yet, as the Continental hotel, the refuge of all assassins, has turned against him after he broke the cardinal rule of the hotel: Killing on Continental grounds. After dealing with singular enemies in the previous two chapters, John Wick, on the run with his pet pitbull, now has a bounty on his head and scores of trained killers on his heels.
It is interesting how franchises involving Reeves have a particular affinity towards strictly adhering to timelines. While John Wick Chapter 2 begins three days after the first, the latest instalment, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, starts right where Chapter 2 ends. Such timeline adherence forces every character in the franchise, which began in 2014, to look exactly the same. You see, not much can change in five days. It is impressive how the principal cast, including Reeves, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, and John Leguizamo, have looked the same over the years.
While John Wick is set to face an army of assassins who are out to claim the bounty in Parabellum, his biggest adversary in India will likely be the censor board. With the 'sanitised' version for the Indian audience being rid of swear words, and graphic violence, it attacks the very essence of Parabellum in a sense.
Nevertheless, come Friday, I'm sure the number of "bodies buried by John Wick" would have grown exponentially. As Nqvist said in the first film about Baba Yaga, "John Wick is not the Boogeyman. He is the person you send to kill the Boogeyman." Well, The Baba Yaga, or whatever is left of him after the censors, is back.