I honestly missed the “John Wick” train when it first came out but way back when I started doing this blog in 2017 the sequel, “John Wick: Chapter 2”, was preparing for release so I took it upon myself to catch up and review that film finding both of the first two chapters to be exceptional and fun action features with a mix of heart and style. Two years later the third and what was reported to be the potential final installment in the franchise has hit theaters, “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”, continuing one of the genre’s fastest growing must-see franchises. I was really excited to see what this film had to offer with the epic cliffhanger left from the second movie and many of the same crew members, including the same writer, director, and star, returning for another go. Is this action thriller the epic continuation that this franchise deserved? Let’s find out. This is my review of “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”.
Picking up immediately after the events of “Chapter 2” (all three movies combined happen within a span of a few weeks) “John Wick: Chapter 3” sees the titular assassin, once again played by Keanu Reeves, on the run as a $14 million bounty is placed on his head and he is excommunicated as a result of his action in “Chapter 2”. With every assassin in Manhattan and beyond looking to collect the bounty, Wick must pull every trick out of his arsenal in order to survive long enough to find a way to clear his name. This leads him to team with new allies like fellow assassin Sofia (Halle Berry) and the Director (Anjelica Huston) as he seeks a way to stay alive. Meanwhile the High Table, the overseeing authority of the assassins, sends an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) and assassin Zero (Mark Dacascos) to punish those who assisted Wick after his crimes forcing Wick to not only seek redemption but also face the consequences his actions have had on others who have supported him along the way.
While I truly enjoyed the first two “John Wick” films this one takes the cake as the best of the series to date. “John Wick: Chapter 3” takes everything that’s been built throughout the first two movies and throws it all on the table, combining new elements with old ones to further John Wick’s story and the world he inhabits. One of my main complaints about the second movie was that it tried to hard to emulate the original and while I thoroughly enjoyed the first film, I did at times feel like it was bogged down by its emotional core, failing to blend the action and motivation properly. This third entry solves ALL of that providing plenty of what we loved about the first two movies while establishing its own identity and personality. This is by far the most intense and action-packed entry in the trilogy taking everything to a whole new level led by another outstanding performance by Keanu Reeves in the title role. This movie smartly never bothers to build you up or prepare you for what’s to come. It picks up right where we left off knowing the audience should already be aware of what to expect and then within the first fifteen minutes starts to give us all the action, violence and amazing unbroken shots we love to see, only turned up to eleven. Thanks to the narrative it doesn’t feel like “Chapter 3” is more violent for the sake of violence. Wick is desperate, he’s scared, and he has every assassin just looking for an opportunity to kill him which mean he has to embrace every skill he ever learned to survive. The result is a non-stop thrill ride of epic proportions that’s everything a great action movie should ever hope to be.
As I said one of my favorite things about this movie is how well is blends new elements with familiar ones. A lot of criticisms I’ve seen have accused the franchise of losing the “heart” that kicked it all off, you know that plot about his wife dying and his dog being killed being the catalyst for his return to the field. However, I disagree. I think this sequel manages to not only capture the heart of the series well but its more aggressive and violent story shows just how out of control John Wick’s situation has become. We still get plenty of callbacks to how hurt he was at the loss if his dog including a pretty funny moment between John Wick and Halle Berry’s Sofia, who happens to utilize two trained dogs herself, where Wick shows understanding for how much they mean to her. There are also several moments where we see Wick brought to his knees, literally and figuratively, and admit to himself and others that he wants to live to “remember” his wife causing Wick to experience a crisis of identity concerning who he wants to be and how he wants to die. While there’s a lot of violence and some AMAZING action scenes there are still numerous moments of personal evolution for Wick. This is further built on by subplots that delve into how the people who helped Wick in the previous film are suffering for helping him. The consequence of actions is a huge theme of this movie and it’s interesting to see Wick suffer from his own deeds when his journey started by him seeking revenge on someone else for wronging him. It’s a neat full-circle plot line that adds to the personal journey Wick is undergoing. Essentially this movie serves as the perfect next step in Wick’s crazy journey for peace and redemption and further builds on just how human Wick is…even if he survives many assassination attempts that no one could ever escape in real life.
I’ve already commented on the film’s action a few times, but it can’t be overstated how awesome and fun “Chapter 3” turned out to be. While incorporating many elements of the first two films, like the unbroken shots and well-choreographed fights that feel all too real, “Chapter 3” takes everything to the next level with more than enough blood and violence to satisfy even the hungriest action junky in the audience. New characters add different fighting styles to the mix as well especially Mark Dacascos Zero (pictured above in the reflection), a fan of John Wick charged with assassinating his idol by the Adjudicator who proves to be Wick’s most threatening and capable challenge to date. Whereas the previous film felt comfortable borrowing elements and style from the first movie without really trying to do anything new, this third entry makes a sincere attempt to remind us what we loved about the previous films while providing its own brand of action and suspense that pushes the series in a new, more violent direction. “Chapter 3” feels like a “John Wick” movie but it also holds up on its own as an action masterpiece. To me, it’s the most fun I’ve had watching any of the three films and it’s one of the most entertaining no-holds-barred action movies I’ve seen in years.
If there is one thing I can complain about with this film though it’s the dialogue. This is something that kind of bothered me in the first two movies as well and I understand it’s good for a film to say a lot without actually, well, SAYING a lot but this series doesn’t tend to lean too heavily on the script except when it wants to feel more sophisticated than I think it has any right being. Don’t get me wrong there are some funny one-liners and exchanges in this movie and several actors provide great performances and reads, but I remember being half an hour into the movie and trying to remember if anyone had even talked yet and if so did they say anything of significance. Sometimes it even felt like characters talked just because the filmmakers felt like they needed to talk to break the tension or drive the scene forward. Some of the dialogue even tends to feel a bit pretentious with vocabulary like “deconsecrated” or titles like the Director or the Adjudicator continuing the series’ trend of trying to seem more sophisticated. I guess it fits with the professionalism of the organized clan of assassins in this universe, but it can be annoying and off-putting to the wrong person. In the end, this is definitely a film, and franchise, more focused on story, world building and action than balanced dialogue.
To conclude, “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” is an awesome movie and one of the best action films of the decade by far. The first two entries in the franchise were great but this one is a masterpiece of action that not only captures what fans loved about the previous films but adds its own new elements and flair to the series to crank everything up to a new level of depth and entertainment. I didn’t even mention how this movie builds on Wick’s own history and sets up further sequels. It’s well acted, well shot and choreographed, energetic, entertaining and just downright fun on nearly every level. The dialogue could have been a little more balanced but it’s a small price to pay for a film that tries really hard to build on the story, world, and characters established in prior films while also adding it’s own new features and themes to the franchise. If this is the last we see of John Wick (and let’s be honest it’s not) it’s one hell of a way to close things out. It’s an astounding third entry to a persistently entertaining franchise that continues to set the bar to new heights for what action films can and should be. I can’t wait to enjoy the ride all over again.