Before I delve into my review of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (try saying that 10 times fast), I need to come clean and say that I did not watch the first John Wick film in the cinemas when it was released in 2014.
At the time it looked like a cookie cutter revenge story, but once I eventually watched it, I was blown away. The gritty, unrelenting action was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and the clandestine world of assassins within the film was fresh, not to mention the cute Beagle puppy in the opening act.
Fast forward five years and now Keanu Reeves is donning the black suit once again to play Mr. Wick, who is trying to evade a $14 million bounty on his head and his pariah status of being “ex communicado”. Oh Halle Berry also shows up with a pair of trained dogs who have a penchant for biting groins.
So does John Wick: Chapter 3 live up to its predecessors?
Well that’s a little tough to answer. I say this not because of a need to avoid spoilers, which I have, but also as there are parts that are truly great about this film, and others which miss the mark.
Building the mythos
Let’s talk about what John Wick: Chapter 3, and the franchise in general, has done well – the mythos of the character. In the first film all we knew about Wick is that he was out for revenge, and in his previous life as an assassin, he was particularly good at his job.
This is expanded upon slightly in Chapter 2, and in this latest offering, we get even more glimpses into John Wick’s past, and how he became one of the deadliest men on the planet. We’re treated to an intense scene about a third of the way into the film involving Wick and Belarusian “family” that raised him in New York, and actually find out his real name.
It’s these little tidbits that help to build the mythology of John Wick, and it is easily one of the best parts of the franchise – the fact that there is a vast underworld of assassins that Joe Sixpack is completely unaware of.
I only wish that more time is dedicated to this aspect of the character. Yes I know he’s on the run for his life, but we’ve sat through two films with this lead and no very little about him, so it would be great to dig a little deeper.
If there are future John Wick films, I really hope this is explored more.
The continuous grind
There’s a big body count in John Wick: Chapter 3. I don’t quite know what the final tally is, but I couldn’t be surprised to hear if it’s in excess of 200.
As such there are numerous fight sequences in Chapter 3, on a range of different scales, and all manner of weapon being employed. At one stage Wick uses a book to kill a man, which is done to show his skills and ingenuity, but by now we know that he is pretty handy in a scrap.
Whereas the first film’s fight scenes were fresh and exciting, the ones in Chapter 3 start to feel laborious by the final third of the movie. The result is that the feats that he performs in the final few sequences feel less special, as the audience has been desensitised by all the action that’s preceded it.
The runtime for Chapter 3 may only be a little over two hours, which is average for big budget films these days, but by the halfway point you start to feel exhausted by all the action taking place.
I liken the experience to watch one of the recent Transformers movies, which are so visually taxing that you eventually switch off and lose interest.
So is John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum a good action movie? Yes. Can it match the levels set by its predecessor, and original in particular? No.
There are several things that the film executes expertly, with fight sequences choreographed to perfection, an interesting character mythos that sucks you in, and more dead bodies than Thanos’ snap.
The problem with Chapter 3 though is balance, with story giving way to action, and the essence of the franchise being lost slightly as a result.