If they’re smart…they’ll stop here. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the John Wick series, going back to the out-of-the-blue original way back in 2014. It started off as a strangely charming but brutally violent comic-come-to-life and, due in large part to the dedication and physicality of unlikely leading man Keanu Reeves as the titular assassin-pulled-from-retirement, it quickly caught on with audiences and ran from there. As a story, the first John Wick could’ve easily just remained a solidly entertaining one-off, but since the audiences flocked to it, the inevitable decision to franchise ‘Mr.Wick’ soon followed. This could’ve been met with disaster, especially when one of the original directing duo, David Leitch, split from the program to pursue his solo directorial debut, the very cool Atomic Blonde (2017), leaving the series in director Chad Stahelski’s untested hands. Luckily, he more than proved himself with John Wick Chapter 2 (2017), in part due to the continued use of the established larger-than-life style, and also due to the incremental expansion of the slick and mysterious criminal underworld shrewdly set up in the first flick. And where Chapter 2 takes the baton from the first movie and runs with it like a champ, as does Parabellum with the sequel.
Launching straight back into the where the story left off in 2017, Chapter 3 finds ‘John’ (Keanu Reeves) and ‘Dog’ frantically racing through the rainy streets of New York City as the clock runs on the one hour head-start granted to him by ‘Winston’ (Ian McShane) following ‘John’s ill-advised execution of High Table mobster ‘Santino D’Antonio’ (Riccardo Scamarcio) on Continental Hotel grounds and the subsequent ex communication that followed. A large scale cat n mouse game ensues, frequently resulting in ‘John’ slaughtering scores of faceless goons. ‘He’s forced to flee to Morocco, to call in a favor of his own from the Manager of the Casablanca chapter of the Continental, ‘Sophia’ (Halle Berry). As they plan and execute their scheme, the High Table’s sinister Ajudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) and her ruthless John Wick-fanboy henchman ‘Zero’ (Mark Dacascos) turn up the heat on the New York Continental, with cross hairs on ‘Winston’ (Ian McShane), the enigmatic Manager who first initiated the bounty on ‘John’s head. Inevitably, these two stories race toward a high-speed collision of crazy, brutal action.
As with the previous two entries in the franchise, I had a blast with Parabellum! Keanu slides straight back into the character without missing a beat and the story just keeps on truckin! Like I said in the beginning, if they’re smart, they’ll stop here and keep it a well-made, self-contained trilogy that everyone involved can, and should, be proud of. Which isn’t to say that I’d be opposed to more cranium-splattering adventures of ‘John Wick’, far from it, if they put the same care into the story and presentation that they pulled of with these first 3 flicks. But given how this one ends, the door is WIDE open for a fourth entry. However, we’ve seen it before where a fourth movie hits a franchise (like shit to a fan!) and the overall quality takes a noticeable hit as a result. Just look at the Alien, Indiana Jones, and Lethal Weapon franchises and tell me they’re better off WITH the fourth title they sadly ended up getting. I would hope that Keanu and Co. would continue to strive to give us action entertainment where the hard work put in shows up onscreen…just like in Chapter 3!When it comes to the Wick flicks, most of us are instantly reminded of the kick-ass, brutal and inventive fight choreography from the first two movies, and this chapter did not let me down! It was balls-to-the-walls action, and most of it was fucking incredible! Many times I caught myself grinning like a goof in the darkness as crazy shit was unleashed at high speed onscreen. One thing the filmmakers have clearly set out to do is to make the individual fight scenes unique and memorable, and for the most part, they succeed. I also enjoy it when excuses are found to have the combatants make use of props and scenery in the course of their fisticuffs / shoot-outs, and just like the previous two flicks, this one does not disappoint in that regard. A couple times, my mouth dropped open when I realized that they WERE going to do what I was saying ‘Nah, they WOULDN’T do THAT…would they!?’ about, at times NEARLY pushing the bounds of good taste (that close-up of the knife into the eyeball comes to mind!). But it was (mostly) all good, not-so-clean fun!
As much as I love these movies, and enjoyed this one in particular, they’re still not perfect. There were a couple things that I can nit-pick…and will. As I alluded to earlier, there were a few times where the in-your-face violence actually could’ve been toned down just a wee little bit, to better effect. Now don’t get me wrong, I do love me some brutal hard ‘R’ violence in my movies, but there were times throughout the series where I found myself asking ‘Did I NEED to see him shoot that dude in the face 3 times in graphic close-up?’, and the same thing went down with this installment. I can readily excuse the admittedly excessive blood-shed that the ‘John Wick’ series is predicated on, as so much of the presentation has an over-the-top graphic novel quality to it, but there’s the odd time where I actually think a cut-away, or more creative compositions and editing, would’ve softened the blow a little. There’s too much firearms violence out in the world today as is…keeping their use in movies strictly within the realm of cinematic fantasy is what I prefer, therefore having the camera linger on gruesome wounds and deaths, even for those few extra seconds, did add a tangible mean-streak to some of the proceedings. But maybe I’m just getting all soft and easily offended in my old age! There was also a sequence in the third act that made me laugh out loud. Without spoiling it, let’s just say that big deals get made of injuries that ‘John’ incurs in the course of these movies and he gets noticeably slowed down, which is an aspect I’ve always appreciated, as it did work to humanize his otherwise near super-natural abilities and toughness. But in Chapter 3, something happens to ‘Wick’ where I found myself murmuring “Oh, give me a fucking break!” as the scene played out. I was in full-on ‘Not Believing This Bullshit’ Mode even as the end credits rolled 10 minutes later. But, despite these minor irritations…
…I had a blast with ‘John Wick Chapter 3’! All 3 movies in the series (to date) are surprisingly awesome, and flow together into one long story nicely (all 3 movies span about a month’s time). A HUGE part of the series’ success rests on the proudly Canadian shoulders of Keanu Reeves. Say what you will about his overall acting ability, whatever he lacks in depth, he definitely makes up for with his near-frightening dedication to physical performance, especially for a dude in his early 50’s! The guy effortlessly sells the actions of the ruthless and capable ‘Wick’, while also keeping a hint of vulnerability / humanity just below the surface, with it surfacing just long enough to endear us, the audience, to the plight of this cold-blooded, one-man slaughter house…which is a little perverse if you back up and take another look at who we’re rooting for. Keanu is luckily surrounded by a solid cast who bring it in to make this ridiculous story work, to pull us into the sinister mysteries and breath-taking violence of the story, which they do nicely. As mentioned, we get the great Ian McShane (American Gods), Lance Reddick (Fringe) as the trusty Continental concierge ‘Charon’ (who FINALLY gets his Action Hero Moment), and Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) as ‘The Bowery King’ all returning, while Asia Kate Dillon and, especially, Mark Decascos (The Crow TV series) made great new additions to the unfolding drama. It was also a treat to see Angelica Huston onscreen again, as I don’t recall the last thing I saw her in, but am definitely familiar with her acting prowess and lineage. And now let’s get to Halle Berry. If they want to make any off-shoots of this franchise (as is rumored, with a possible Continental-centric story in the works), I would be all for a flick centered on ‘Sophia’ and her two excellently trained and loyal German Shepherds (that Berry allegedly dog-trained herself). Despite what the trailers might have you thinking, her role is not massive, but it does carry weight. Mid-way through the 2 hour, 10min run-time, there’s a crazy action sequence where ‘John’ and ‘Sophia’ storm a goon-filled location and ‘Sophia’ more than holds her own as the two of them violently dispatch the opposition. Halle Berry does a solid ‘John Wick’ impression and I’d love to see a story with her fucking shit up with her dogs in the seedy underworld of modern-day Casablanca. If given the same care and attention that these movies got, that could be awesome! The action scenes are top-notch, always inventive, always brutal and always moving, while being again shot and cut in a way where we don’t lose the geography of the action and it all flows at a break-neck pace. There’s also a nice scattering of lighter moments that pop up, offering small respites from the brutality as the story plays out. The lighting and color scheme was similarly cool, blending from one film in the series to the next with a rich, consistent color scheme, often featuring rich golds and blues, composed to feel like still frames from a graphic novel. The sound design was terrific, especially when rifles or shotguns popped up on screen. Holy shit! That was some Ooommph! However, if I really want to wrap this up properly, all I really need to say is – if you liked the first two John Wick flicks…you’ll like Chapter 3. It’s that simple. It was fun on The Big Screen and I would recommend checking it out there, if you get the chance. But if you don’t, and are a fan of action movies of this kind, then definitely hook it up when it hits Home Release. It’d be a great one to take in with a little booze, maybe a little smoke (if you’re legally able)…just shut your brain off and get lost in the carnage.
“If you think you can take John Wick, you’ve got a nasty surprise coming.”
-The Bowery King