In 2014, John Wick was released to audience and critical acclaim. On top of being a great action film, it managed to resurrect Keanu Reeves’s career and launched an iconic action franchise. The follow-up, John Wick: Chapter 2, was not as strong in my opinion but did successfully deepen the world and continue the ongoing story. Now the third film is here, acting as a direct continuation that still does not reach the heights of the first film, but manages to be an entertaining follow-up.
After John Wick (Keanu Reeves) just committed a murder within hotel-for-hitmen The Continental, leader Winston (Ian Mcshane) has just sent every assassin in New York after him. Wick must fight his way out of New York and find any associates that can help him. He runs into figures like the Director (Anjelica Huston) and Sofia (Halle Berry), with the looming threat of head organisation The High Table through the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) and a group of assassins lead by Zero (Mark Dacascos) causing more problems for Wick and Winston.
On a pure story level, despite the return of the complex world building and brief hints towards John’s backstory, Chapter 3 is probably the simplest and most bare-bones film in the series. There’s a simplistic A-to-B approach to the narrative that helps make the long running time feel like nothing. This is a benefit and an improvement over its predecessor. Whilst Chapter 2 took far too long to get going, Chapter 3 hits the ground running, slows down a bit with action moments in between and then picks back up. However, the big issue with the narrative is that it feels a little hollow due to the lack of a strong emotional core, something that would have gone a long way to making what transpires feel more meaningful. Also, the ending might annoy some people wanting a more satisfying conclusion, but it works once you realise that this series is going beyond a trilogy.
What keeps the story exciting is the action sequences, which are more brutal and over-the-top than ever. Every single one of them contains kills that will leave you laughing or cringing. John Wick as a series thankfully always knows not to take itself too seriously so there are quite a few great instances of dark comedy within the action. None of them get repetitive either due to the amount of creativity on display, though there are only so many times you can see someone quickly disappear before you get tired of it. The finale also does admittedly go on for far longer than needed, but the two final battles offer great resolutions. The direction during these sequences is as great as ever for all of the reasons that you would expect; perfect editing, brilliant choreography and great camerawork.
As for the performances, the supporting cast do very solid work. Returning actors Ian McShane and Lance Reddick are given more important roles this time around and new additions like Anjelica Huston and Mark Dacascos are welcome as well. The standouts are easily Halle Berry who manages to do some of her best work in years, and Asia Kate Dillon, who is quite robotic and menacing. However, Keanu Reeves is awful. In John Wick, his performance was surprisingly emotionally intense, with both the action and the dialogue being career best for him. But come Chapter 2 and 3, a lot of that emotion is taken away and he starts delivering all his lines like he is reading them off cue cards, with far less emotion than typical for him. I got used to it here and he still nails the action scenes, but I’d like to see him stop delivering lines in that style and be given more of a chance to properly act.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is another enjoyable entry into a series that is so far a much better franchise than Reeves’s Matrix Trilogy. Whilst I still feel like the first film is stronger on a narrative and emotional level, this is somewhere between that one and Chapter 2. Hopefully the next one can be better.