WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Picking up immediately after the events of John Wick 2, John Wick is now classified as “ex communicado” by the shadowy syndicate of assassins known as “The Table”, which means that every other assassin on the planet is out to get him and he is entirely cut off from all the resources that the Table offers their assassins. Cashing in on every favour owed him, Wick has no choice but to either re-enter the syndicates good books or vanish so completely off the face of the Earth that no one will ever bother him again.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
After being pretty lukewarm about both of the previous John Wick films, the third instalment hasn’t exactly changed my mind about the series but I can quite confidentially declare John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum to be by far the best John Wick flick to date. If you haven’t liked the other John Wick movies then you won’t like this one very much either but if you thought the first two films were good or better, prepare yourself for a treat. Of all the John Wick movies so far this is by far the John Wickiest.
The stuff that makes John Wick work for so many people isn’t just on evidence here but, in large part, has actually been improved upon by returning director, Chad Stahelski, and a writing team once again led by Derek Kolstad. With so much of the same talent behind and in front of the camera, it’s not exactly surprising that the latest John Wick is more of the same but it is somewhat surprising that it is better of the same too.
There are, for a start, some of the most spectacular action scenes in the franchise to date. At their very best, they remind me of Jackie Chan at his most inventive, athletic and, yes, comedic. And I could offer almost no greater compliment. Unlike most of Jackie’s movies, however, Parabellum is almost absurdly violent and ups the gore and brutality from the previous films but, by this point, it’s done with so much almost balletic grace and pitch-black humour that it has about as much to do with real-life violence as movie musicals have to do with suddenly bursting out singing in the middle of a crowded train station.
On the flip side, however much I largely enjoyed the action scenes centred around non-firearm-based combat for their variety, invention, physical comedy and all around brilliant choreography, the gun fights were a total snooze – no matter how loud they were. To vastly paraphrase Obi Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars movie, guns simply don’t have the elegance of of swords... or, for that matter, knives, fists, feet, horses, dogs and whatever else John Wick uses to dispatch his many, many enemies. Sure, the gunfights are still the most elaborate since the “Gun-Fu” of Equilibrium but they still get very monotonous, very quickly.
And monotony is still the biggest problem I have with these films and it is only slightly improved upon here. That endless gunfights get brain-numbingly boring after a while is no real surprise but everything here suffers from excess. Keanu is still a lot of fun as the title character (and is even better in interviews talking about - full name only please – John Wick) but just a bit more actual, you know, characterisation would go a very long way. There is much more plot here too with the whole mythology of the Table (so called just to make “over” and “under” puns) finally coming into focus but, honestly, it’s not really worth the build up.
Another issue is that though the male supporting characters/ allies/ enemies are once again tremendous fun with Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburn, in particular, once again stealing the show and Mark Dacascos deliciously entertaining as the series’ most memorable main villain, the addition of three new female supporting characters goes rather less well. I appreciate the attempt to add a feminine perspective to the proceedings but, in this case, solidly good intentions don’t really translate to actual success.
Halle Berry brings a few attack dogs to further diversify the action scenes but she herself fails to spark any interest as her post-Oscar career continues to land with one thuddingly unengaging performance after another. Asia Kate Dillon, meanwhile, has a bit more fun here but her uber-cool “Adjudicator” gets tiresome after really not too long. Anjelica Huston as a Russian mob boss probably acquits herself the best here but for someone who made such a memorable mark as, among many other great roles, the matriarch of both the Adams and Tenenbaum families, John Wick will be but a blip on her extraordinary filmography.
At this point, it’s really quite pointless to recommend this film because, unless you missed the other films (which is hardly impossible, I suppose, but why the hell would you start here?), you pretty much know whether you’ll like it or not. From my point of view, though, this is easily the John Wick film with which I had the most amount of fun – I just think it would be massively improved by giving John Wick a Batman-like aversion to guns while stripping the bloated runtime of 130 minutes down to a solid and b-movie-appropriate eighty or ninety minutes. Inevitably, John Wick 4 is set up in the final moments and, who knows, maybe that will finally be the John Wick movie to correct the series’ frankly fairly fixable issues but, failing that, I don’t know quite how long they can draw this out before even fans start losing patience.
That’s the future, though. For now, fans have been rewarded for their patronage with by far the best (and wackiest/ funniest) John Wick film to date.