John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a film about former mob hitman John Wick, who has been excommunicated from the secret underground criminal syndicate he used to work for and now there’s a big price on his head.
The John Wick films started off very simple and basic. A spoiled brat son of a Russian gangster steals a man’s car and kills his dog for funzies, but it turns out that man is the most feared hitman in the world. It’s a very effective and entertaining revenge story with great action. The first movie also gave us a bit of a glimpse into this kind of weird, underground criminal society that has it’s own code of conduct, it’s own currency and doing someone a favour is kind of a big deal. The second film explored more in that direction and showed us some more whacky characters like Laurence Fishburn as the Bowery King. At the end of Chapter 2, John Wick breaks the rules by murdering someone inside the Continental Hotel, which is a big no-no as the Continental is basically like the Neutral Zone from Star Trek. So now, Chapter 3 picks up directly where Chapter 2 leaves off with John Wick having one hour to get the hell out of town before the bounty on his head goes into effect. The rest of the film is essentially Wick calling in favours to find a way to get his bounty removed.
This film takes a total deep dive into more of the bizarre, borderline crime-fantasy elements of the franchise. It doesn’t show glimpses like the first movie, it goes all in. It almost feels like the entire world is in on this underground crime world. Anywhere Wick goes, someone is there trying to kill him. Wick gets into a taxi, you better believe the taxi wants to be paid in gold murder coins. Everyone seems to be a secret hidden killer in this movie, and to a degree that almost pulled me out of it. But there’s not really anything wrong with going all in on a film like that. It is an interesting premise.
We as the audience really don’t know what’s going to happen next. We don’t really know what John Wick’s plan is or what he’s thinking. And in a sense, that’s refreshing. We’re along for the journey. But the film got to a point where that journey felt completely far-fetched. At one point in the film, John Wick decides to search for the big head honcho of the whole organisation, and his directions to find him? Follow a constellation in the desert until you’re nearly dead, and then keep walking, and maybe you’ll find him. And that’s what happens. It feels so far removed from anything we saw in the first two films that it didn’t even feel like the same movie anymore. At a certain point, understanding John Wick’s motivation and what’s keeping him going became kind of hard to buy.
All the performances are great. Keanu Reeves, who has never been what I would consider to be “a great actor”, is actually perfectly fine in this role. It feels very much tailored to him. He has the few moments where he has to bring a level of weight to the role dramatically, but for the most part, the role of John Wick is to be a slick badass killer. He’s not dropping heaps of one-liners or trying to get a laugh out of every scene, and he’s not overacting. He’s just doing his thing. Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne and Ian McShane all help add to the film and everyone does their part in adding to the mystique of the universe.
Whether you’re into the whackier side of the film or not, the film is still largely driven by action. Lots and lots of action. And the action is great. It’s a film that doesn’t shy away from having extended knife fight sequences and explosive shootouts with little in the way of dialogue. Director Chad Stahelski – who has a background in stunt work – clearly knows how to execute a great action sequence whilst doing it with maximum style. Even if the plot were complete and utter garbage, I still couldn’t bring myself to give the film a bad review based on just how well executed and entertaining the action is.
My big gripe is that, without entering too deep into spoiler territory, John Wick is more or less in the same place at the end of the film as he was at the start. Almost everyone’s out to get him. Very little has changed in that regard. And the film all but tells you to sit tight and wait for John Wick: Chapter 4. And I’m sure Chapter 4 will end up being another great, exciting, action film. But I hope we get to see a sense of direction in this series. Maybe there is an ending in sight for John Wick, whether it be a sad ending or a happy ending. Until then, it feels like he is running in place, going through endless fight scene after fight scene until the films stop making bank at the box office. Nevertheless, fans of action do need to watch all the John Wick films, including this one.