A continuation of what’s widely regarded as one of the best action franchises in modern cinema, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is the newest high-octane Keanu Reeves-led flick, and it’s the most hyper-violent of the series thus far. It picks up right where Chapter 2 left off, with Reeves’ Wick having just been excommunicated from the worldwide organization of assassins known as the High Table, and a bounty of millions of dollars put on his head. Now he is on the run from all of the ruthless assassins in New York City and must somehow survive despite the fact that almost everybody on the streets is secretly a member of the organization.
The movie establishes its pace from the very first scene in which Wick and his dog are running down the streets of New York trying to find safety while being hunted by the entire city. An initial fight scene in the New York Public Library reminds the audience of the gruesomeness of the franchise, while also giving them a taste of the nonstop action to come. It’s for the film’s benefit that there is so much action, for, like the other two John Wick films, it is by far the best part of the movie. Chapter 3 contains the most well-filmed hand-to-hand combat scenes the average person is likely to find in modern cinema. Every punch is felt, every single bullet fired feels real, and each action scene is the type of visceral and bloody fun that director Chad Stahelski excels at.
Keanu Reeves isn’t exactly the world’s greatest with line delivery, but he makes up for that in spades with his stunt work. In every single action scene, it was impossible for me to find a stunt double whenever Reeves was on screen, and this includes a scene where he is fighting samurai warriors on a motorcycle at about 90 miles per hour. There are never the obvious cuts where the audience can tell when the stunt double enters and exits; they never need to use this method because it is always Reeves fighting the bad guys, no matter the circumstance.
Stahelski knows he has a winner on his hands with Reeves, so he uses long shots with a length of about seven to eight seconds in between cuts. The moviegoer can clearly see every hit, death and gunshot depicted on screen, which adds to the visceral nature of the action. Some action films nowadays seem set on having a cut every 30 seconds during fight scenes, but Stahelski and crew seem determined to throw this tired tactic out the window, and create a better film than most in the process.
Everything involving the action in Chapter 3 is impeccable, but anything involving plot and story seems lackluster. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not walking in the theater for a John Wick film expecting Shakespearean levels of meaning and symbolism. However, the general plot could have been far more compelling. A movie can have as much action as humanly possible, but without a compelling storyline to pull the audience through the runtime the fight scenes come up empty. This is the case for much of Chapter 3, making certain scenes considerably less memorable.
The plot of the whole first act of the film is essentially just Wick on the run and killing anybody who encounters him. While this is entertaining enough, there needed to be a defined end goal or a mission that kept him going. This is why the film hits its low point when Wick goes to Casablanca, where there is an entire side plot involving Halle Berry and Jerome Flynn (Bronn from Game of Thrones) that had me wanting to check the time. The action scenes were great as always, but during this section of the movie they just seemed thrown in there, as if the writers knew the audience would be bored by this point so they added some filler. This is obviously not true since so much time and effort was put into the fights, but at a certain point I started to wonder why so many people were dying with so little plot progression.
The final act of the film is where Chapter 3 hits its stride. Wick is finally given something interesting to do, and as soon as the film enters the Continental Hotel, I was in it for the long run. It managed to combine the insane action with stakes and character moments, and finally gave me the perfect action film I had been looking for during the first two acts. Chapter 2 managed to pull this off effortlessly, and while that film had some plot problems not unlike this film, it never lost my interest. The action in this one, however, is more relentless than the other entries of the franchise, and that alone makes it worth going to see on the big screen.
Sloppy storytelling aside, John Wick: Chapter 3 is a relentless and fun time at the theater as long as one isn’t bothered by more brains and broken bones than Hannibal Lecter has dealt with in his entire lifetime. Chapter 2 edges this one out in quality, but Parabellum is about on par with the first one in regard to writing even though watching any John Wick film for the dialogue would be akin to attending a Travis Scott concert for the symbolism. For the inevitable next film in the franchise more effort should be spent on a compelling plot, but for now Chapter 3 gives some of the most nonstop and clear action in cinema right now despite its flaws.
I give John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum a B-.