Consequences of War
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is directed by Chad Stahelski and stars Keanu Reeves as the titular John Wick. Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, and Laurence Fishburne return to reprise their roles from the previous two films. Mark Dacascos, Halle Berry, Asia Kate Dillon, and Anjelica Huston also star.
If it wasn't official following the release of John Wick: Chapter 2, it should be official now: John Wick is now one of the all-time great action film series. I am hard-pressed to say if we're currently living in a golden age of action films; there's still a lot of shitty action films coming out nowadays that should have just settled for the DVD Bargain Bin at Walmart and not try a worldwide theatrical release. For all the action garbage that Hollywood keeps trying to spoon feed us though, it seems that the 2010s have also been home to some of the most insane, hard-hitting actions films to ever grace the cinema. I of course am talking about action films like Mad Max: Fury Road and last year's Mission Impossible: Fallout, and while it may be too soon to put John Wick 3 into that legendary group, there were periods during the film where I was certainly endorsing it.
Perhaps it's just a matter of personal taste, but I've always taken the most liking to action films that never stop moving: Speed and The Fugitive being my favorite two examples. It's not that said movies have little to no plot and are nothing but action set piece after action set piece, but that the concept of the movie, in and of itself, can only be executed by seemingly non-stop, wall-to-wall action. Speed can't slow down because the bomb on the bus will blow up if it slows down too much. Harrison Ford can't catch his breath during The Fugitive because he'll get caught if he does. John Wick, in his third big-screen appearance, can't stop because every assassin in New York is out to get him, and that means one crazy fight after another, with very little dialogue breaks in between. To me, these type of non-stop action films are the most faithful to what we mean when we say action: stop talking and get your ass moving.
I guess I should give a plot synopsis. Well, I'll try to anyway: shortly after the events of John Wick 2, John and his loyal dog are on the run through the streets of Manhattan, where John is now considered an "excommunicado". This basically means that John is now cut off from all his previous hitman resources. On top of that, John gets placed under a $14 million bounty, and he has to fight through assassin after assassin in hopes of finding a safe haven. A safe haven comes in the form of a woman known as The Director (Huston), who accepts a crucifix from John as his "ticket" to safety in Casablanca. In Casablanca, John meets Sofia (Berry), a past friend who assists John in his quest to locate "The Elder", a member of the The High Table who can help get John off the bounty. What is this High Table, you ask? Basically, it's the government system of this worldwide league of assassins, and they did not take well to John's actions at the end of the second film, so their justice is sent in the form of The Adjudicator (Kate Dillon), who sets out to find John, kill him, and punish those who helped him along the way.
- At this point, it's just being Captain Obvious when I say that the action in a John Wick film is nothing short of spectacular. But how can I not continue to say wonderful things about the terrific stunt work, the eye-popping cinematography, and the satisfying series of kills that all have that "pow!" factor? What makes the action in John Wick 3 seem different than the action from the previous two films is the stronger emphasis on martial arts based combat. I think John has more hand-to-hand fights in this film than he did in the first two films combined, which is cool, because it means we get to see more of the incredible "hands and feet" stunt work that make these fights so enjoyable to watch. There's still plenty of time dedicated to guns and bullets, with one action scene taking place in a neon green-lit room that I thought was absolute perfection. All the action scenes, guns or no guns, are also very delicate when it comes to space, having a strong awareness of all the surroundings and being very comprehensible of who is where. The attention to detail in John Wick 3 is exquisite, and something that all major action films should strive for (starting with you, Fast and Furious films...).
- The John Wick films have always striven to be as stylish as possible, and the third film is no exception, with a blast of striking colors and equally striking set design that transform the film's setting into something resembling a beautiful art gallery. The only thing is, that beautiful art gallery is playing host to frenetic action, and my oh my, do the two compliment each other so well. For some people, the visuals may look like something out of a comic book, and that means that John Wick represents a superhero, but if we had to choose between a shiny glass room with gorgeous color schemes or the dark streets of Manhattan that contained every grimy, disgusting color scheme known to man, I think we'd all take the former in a heartbeat. I think having much of the film's climax take place in a glass room was a completely deliberate choice: there would be nothing that Chad Stahelski or his crew could do to hide any glaring discrepancies in the action and the stunt work. They want us to see the stunt work in all its full blown glory, and it wouldn't be possible with any other type of visual design.
- Everything we could consider flaws in John Wick 3 mostly comes down to minor annoyances. For all the praise I just gave to the action and the stunt work, there are some head-scratching moments during several of the fights where someone facing John looks like they pause for a few seconds, so that they can let John get back into a fighting stance. The movie also continues the habit from the previous films of having someone run into John with their vehicle, and John goes flying up onto the front of the car, which, unless it's been disproved in a study somewhere, should break your legs or at least damage them enough so that walking becomes a near impossible task. John being a little too invincible was my main issue with the second film, but that invincibility is mostly done away with in this film. These annoyances, though, are minuscule details that have little to no bearings on the plot and likely are something you'll notice only if you're paying very close attention (which I happened to be doing).
In the end, John Wick 3 is easily the best installment in the John Wick franchise, which now is looking more and more similar to the Mission: Impossible franchise, in that it seems to get better and better with every new film. You don't need to bother looking anywhere else if you're trying to find the most stylish, hard-hitting action of 2019, because John Wick 3 owns all of it: a bloody, visual splendor that firmly etches the John Wick franchise into the hall of greatest action franchises of all time. Minor issues in the fight choreography and in John being able to survive hard crashes and falls keep the film from being utter perfection, but when so much else in the film is so perfectly executed, it comes pretty damn close to being perfect. For now, it's the best new wide release of 2019, and something that's going to be pretty damn tough to beat, assuming there will be a John Wick 4 in the future. Keep 'em coming, Mr. Wick. So many 21st century action films can't even hold a candle to your incredible talents.
Recommend? Hell yes. Be sure you've seen the first two films.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: