Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

I saw this movie opening night. Since then, and even at the time, I have been sick and maybe even died for a couple minutes, or at least I felt like it. I also slept like 30 hours over the last 2 days and finally starting to feel like I might survive long enough to write this review. So here we go, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum…with all it’s subtitle nonsense. This one probably won’t be very long, as I don’t have much to say about it. Although it wasn’t my favorite of the franchise, I do recommend seeing it if you enjoyed either of the first two films, or if you just like Keanu Reeves or headshots, or both.
“Si vis pacem, para bellum.” An old Latin proverb, and basically the reason behind the plot in this movie (hence the second subtitle), drives the titular character to find a means of deliverance: “If you want peace, prepare for war.” And war he gets, as the body count in this movie is far higher than either of the others (91, 119, and 167 respectively, thanks Reddit nerds!). But it’s not just the kills that vary from the first two films, but also the motivation behind them. John Wick was a nearly-perfect revenge film with just a hint of lore, doing very little to explain anything going on behind the scenes. John Wick: Chapter 2 was almost as good, and once again became all about revenge when he was double-crossed. It also held an open door for us to look at the criminal world of the Continental, The High Table, and The Bowery, but refused to dive into any details. I appreciated the way that Stahelski (Director, stuntman for 20 years) and Kolstad (Writer) delivered these two movies because they were mostly simplistic and gave just a taste of what more could be happening that viewers were unaware of. Also, seeing as both men are new to their fields of directing and writing, the success of these films is both incredibly rare and well-deserved. Moving on to John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, I think the reason it doesn’t top the list for me is because it became too complicated. There was no outright revenge this time, and most of the movie became a deep dive into the lore and history of John Wick. While I wanted to know more like I was given in each of the previous films, I didn’t need that much.
The third movie picks up roughly 40 minutes after the second movie ends, with John Wick running to escape his sentence of “excommunicado” for killing the man who double-crossed him on Continental grounds and the band of assassins looking to cash in on the Baba Yaga’s $14 million bounty. I think if they stuck to their guns (ironically, I’m glad they didn’t because their use of other weapons in this movie was so good) and kept the movie going along this plot line, then adding in some lore along the way would have been exemplary. But as Wick runs, the movie starts focusing less on him getting away and more on who and where he is running to. The world-building sent the story in circles at times, as he would meet someone or get somewhere and then after a long explanation of whoever or wherever he was, he would leave that person or place behind and just continue running. It seemed haphazard and unnecessary in its execution. If they had cut 15 minutes of world-building and sprinkled it in over another one or two movies, this one would be my favorite so far, because there are plenty of subtleties that I like. 1) Everyone plays by the rules (most of the time). Friends even refuse to help Wick when nobody else is around for fear of getting found out. 2) No one is above punching or kicking someone in the nuts. Hey, if it works…? 3) Wick’s character is full of dichotomy. Even in the first 20 minutes as his free hour is about to expire, we see him check his watch about a dozen times. Yet as soon as he has a second to catch his breath before several assassins figure out where he’s gone, he spends the entire time taking apart and putting together an old pistol just to fire one shot. As a fan of movies, out-of-place scenes like this one melt my heart. 4) There’s a sincere callback to The Matrix, and it’s not just Laurence Fishburne. As a big fan of that movie growing up, I smiled when I heard it šŸ™‚
I could say more, but I won’t. This review is already longer than I thought it would be (how does that always happen?). All in all, I didn’t need to know as much as I do now to care for John. With the team throwing everything except the kitchen sink into the film (not only for his disposable weapons arsenal) I’m struggling to consider what they could do next and if I would really care should they continue the franchise. And that’s not a place I want to be after three great films. Let me know what you think of the movie once you see it, even if that’s two months from now at Redbox! As always, show your local theatres some love and be nice to the theatre staff. Cheers!

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