Esther McCarthy reviews Amazing Grace and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Amazing Grace *****
One of the greatest singers of all times is captured at the height of her power in the beguiling Amazing Grace.
46 years after it was first filmed over two nights at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, this concert film of Aretha Franklin’s groundbreaking gospel album, shot in the heat of the night, is compulsive viewing.
Featuring Franklin, the colourful Reverend James Cleveland, her father and well-known church minister CL Franklin and the Southern California Community Choir, the film, directed by Sydney Pollack is the purest of documents in that it focuses on the performance.
While Cleveland is happy to play to the crowd, Franklin is content to let her singing do the talking, uttering just a few sentences between songs in the entire film.
The highlights are many, but Mary Don’t You Weep is a standout, while the music and atmosphere builds to a truly moving and rousing finale as you’d expect from a gospel performance.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum ** (16)
If you’re here for the imaginative and gory deaths and frenetic action sequences and are a fan of the series you’re not going to be disappointed, but as a movie this is a classic case of diminishing returns.
Set immediately after the ending of John Wick 2, Wick, a skilled and retired assassin brought back into the fold following the death of his beloved puppy, has been ex communicated by the secret society of killers, The High Table, that he worked for.
This has come about because of a killing on a Continental Hotel, the body’s agreed safe place - and he now has a $14 million bounty on his head, and dozens on contract killers on his tail.
The novelty of Reeves’ hyper-killer with a softness for mutts is wearing thin, even though the film’s makers have the savvy to paper over the movie’s cracks with a much higher kill list (I lost count after 57 killings, barely halfway into the movie’s 132-minute running time).
Co-ordinating such mayhem of course takes skill and good filmmaking. But beyond the death and action, there is little here. While the choreography of these is admittedly dazzling and will serve fans of the series well, the series is now leaning into the same old tired gags, offering little of the black humour of, say, a Ben Wheatley film or the context of some of the great asian gorefests like The Raid. There are only so many times you can see a rival killer get his comeuppance without it losing its impact.