As I’ve said before on this blog, I’m a fan of the John Wick series. In terms of pure action, the John Wick films are pretty much exactly what you hope for in an action film, helped by strong worldbuilding and a strong central performance from Keanu Reeves, with a reliable string of character actors behind him. Each of the films has built up the action and I’ve been eagerly awaiting this instalment. The film itself I would say is the weakest in the John Wick series, but is still a great action film.
The film picks up immediately after the end of John Wick: Chapter 2, with Wick being declared Excommunicado by the High Table, with a $14 million dollar bounty on his head, following his killing of Santino D’Antonio at the end of the second film. Wick spends the hour grace period given to him by Winston, the manager of the Continental Hotel in New York, getting things prepared to arrange passage to Casablanca. There, he meets former associate Sofia, the manager of Casablanca’s Continental, who owes him a debt based on a Marker she gave him years earlier. Wick gets Sofia to help him find the person above the High Table in order to find a way out. Meanwhile, an Adjudicator for the High Table orders Winston and the Bowery King to surrender their positions for the assistance they gave Wick in the previous film, along with hiring assassin Zero to take out Wick and anyone who helps him. Now the main theme of this film is that of consequences. Throughout the film, the characters have to come to terms with the consequences of their actions, good and bad, and this gives some greater weight to the whole series. There are also interesting ideas over whether anyone can truly get out of the life John Wick is in, although to go more into detail would spoil the film. I will say that in terms of structure, this film isn’t paced as well as the previous two films. There are a few moments which drag a little bit, some of these working in aiding the worldbuilding of the series, but there are other scenes which feel just a bit too long.
The performances are as strong here as they have been in the entire series. Keanu Reeves is still excellent as Wick, giving this vibe of power, letting you know without dialogue that Wick is a dangerous man, but there’s more desperation in Reeves’ eyes in this film due to how outmatched he is, the consequences he has to face for his actions and just how exhausted he is due to how many people he’s going up against. Halle Berry as Sofia is good as well, showing the history between her and Wick well and the resentment she feels towards her life and her pain at giving up any chance of happiness to protect who she loves, along with doing a great job in the action scenes. Ian McShane is still strong as Winston, having this dry, acerbic wit to him, but also showing someone who’s afraid of losing power and the damage that will be done if he’s not in control. Asia Kate Dillon as the Adjudicator has a strong presence in the film, showing someone who can convince you to do anything they ask and it’s believable that all of the other characters are intimidated by the Adjudicator. Mark Dacascos is a lot of fun as Zero, essentially playing a John Wick fanboy and he’s great to watch in the action scenes, whilst it’s always great to see Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman in an action film, the two putting the skills previously demonstrated in The Raid films to great use and being involved in the best hand to hand fight scene in the John Wick series. There are fun moments with Laurence Fishburne and Jason Mantzoukas as the Bowery King and the Tick Tock Man (an associate of the Bowery King), but they aren’t in the film as much as I would have liked, Lance Reddick is once again brilliantly dry as Charon (and it’s great to finally see him get involved in the action) and strong work is done by Anjelica Houston and Saïd Taghmaoui, although to go more into detail would spoil their roles in the film. The only weak link I’d say there is in the cast is Jerome Flynn, mainly because of the accent he adopts for his role sounding forced.
Technically, the series is once again very impressive. The action scenes in this film are probably the best choreographed in the whole series. There’s this raw, visceral feel to each action scene, especially at the start of the film when Wick is using anything and everything as a weapon to survive and pretty much everyone in my audience audibly reacted to the action scenes. Great use is made of dogs in the action as well, due to Sofia having guard dogs with her at all times, with the way Sofia interacts with the dogs creating some strong moments. I also felt that there was more of a Bruce Lee feel to some of the action scenes, along with the deliberate references to Buster Keaton, I can’t be the only one who feels that there are some structural similarities to Game of Death at the end of the film. The style of the film is as strong as it was in the other films, making great use of lighting so that even in dark scenes you can clearly see what is going on, with the use of bright singular lighting sources (mainly through neon lights) giving the film a strong look.
Overall, whilst I do think John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is the weakest film in the series, I still thought it was a great action scenes. The action scenes are better than ever, the worldbuilding, whilst not as impressive as it was in Chapter 2, is still entertaining to see and Keanu Reeves is as compelling as ever as John Wick. As a pure action film, this is a visceral thrill ride.
My Rating: 4/5