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Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather convene an adjudication of John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (Post bellum, ergo propter bellum?), talking about why we still care about John Wick, the film’s somewhat perplexing milieu, the villain problem, and why this dog can’t ever be the dog.
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Are tales of extreme competence, like John Wick, meant to be fantasies lived out vicariously or are they more exhibitive and meant to garner our respect from a distance?
Are we supposed to think that we’re also supernaturally good at we do in life and therefore game simply respects game? Or do we just wish we could be as skilled at database administration as John Wick is at shooting fools in the head?
Patrick Willems makes the interesting point that John Wick is, at least in part, about how rough it can be getting around New York City. I don’t know how useful that is to the overall ideas in the episode, but it seems to fit well with the idea of evil, underworld organizations fighting to hire the overeducated, underemployed Gen-Z-ers to do their filing for them.
Actually, that does make me wonder why so few franchises don’t take the time to investigate the bureaucracy required to keep these enormous-but-secret organizations running. It might not make a good action movie, but I’d argue that there’s more potential storytelling mileage available there than in over-edited CGI action scenes.
Forgot to link to the video, in case it’s interesting to anyone else: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bgkk71zNss
Did Mark just compare Donald Trump to John Wick? >_>
I guess I kinda did, huh? More broadly though, the movie made me think of the crazy game theory machinations at play in the US-China trade war in that bitter rivals usually keep their instinct to betray at bay for perceived mutual benefit, until one of them doesn’t. The descent into retaliation and the breakdown in relations then calls into question the whole damn system. To get into the weeds of the Huawei stuff for a moment, the US ban on doing business with that country threatens to spill over in many unpredictable ways, particularly and the assumptions that undergird open source software development and various tech sharing practices that cross international borders generally.
Like John Wick killing his enemy at The Continental at the end of JW2, the US might have good reason to go after Huawei and wage trade war with China, but doing so unleashes enormous consequences and makes you vulnerable to all sorts of unpredictable blowback.
Perhaps I’ve stretched this metaphor to the breaking point, so I’ll just end by saying that Trump is definitely not like John Wick in terms of ability to dodge knives, punch people, or really do anything physical or kinetic.
One quick “Well, actually…”: In addition to being a Latin phrase, “Parabellum” is also a type of ammunition, supposedly “the world’s most popular and widely used military handgun and submachine gun cartridge”. Given that context, the film title may be a bit more appropriate than at first blush.
On another note, I think it is interesting that the second film starts with Wick trying to refuse a marker, and central to the third film is him imposing on Halle Berry’s character to honour a marker.
As for the film lacking a villain, I think that Matt’s offhand suggestion towards the end that the villain is “the system” is entirely correct. I think the film argues that the manner in which the whole assassin “government” is constructed is unsustainable, by demanding contradictory things of those governed. As we saw, the whole system is constructed on personal obligations and debts — Bronn explicitly says that the gold coins have no intrinsic value, but represent one person’s indebtedness to another. The whole marker system likewise is all about what each individual owes each other. Note that these are not about what the individuals owe “the System”, but rather that such web of obligations (and its enforcement by all) quite literally IS the System.
However, when the High Table decides to punish Wick, it demands the debts that people owe to John be disregarded (as in the case of Berry’s character), and that instead people show fealty only to the High Table. In other words, it undermines the entire foundation upon which the system is ostensibly built, and instead of a self-governing organization, it asserts that it is essentially a dictatorship. The system was built on personal obligation, on the interconnected nature of individual indebtedness, but when push comes to shove the High Table says that doesn’t matter, that instead an abstract commitment to them matters more. Previously the system could accommodate people like Berry, and McShane, and Fishburne, as they saw the system gave them latitude within that web of formalized mutual obligations. When that system breaks down, when instead the High Table unilaterally asserts its power, one gets rebellion.
Mark mentions “The Raid” around minute 50. Interesting connection here: the actor and martial artist Yayan Ruhian, one of the two Indonesian fighters that fight John Wick towards the end of the movie, is in The Raid as well. He’s awesome.