“Prepare for war.” That’s what the Latin phrase “Parabellum” means in English. It’s a very apt sub-title for John Wick: Chapter 3 since the series has featured a lot of killing and gunplay. And after the events of the second film, it definitely looks like John Wick will have to prepare for war.
This is a movie that I have been looking forward to ever since it was first announced. I loved the first two John Wick films. I loved the first film’s audacity, brutal action scenes and how I would usually describe its plot as “a guy who goes out and hunt for the people who killed his dog.” The second film kicked up the world building and how we get to see this hidden world of assassins and the code of rules they have to follow to keep order amongst themselves. So I was looking forward to what John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum was going to add. Unfortunately, I will have to say that, while this is still a good movie, it’s hands down the worst film in the series so far.
Before you read on with this review, I do have to mention that this will be a SPOILER FREE review. I will give the ending of the second film as this is where John Wick 3 (yes, I’ll be calling this movie that from now on because the “official” title is just too long) picks up. But, other than that, I will not give any plot details of this movie. So, rest assured, everything else is going to be SPOILER FREE.
John Wick 3 picks right after the ending of the second film. After murdering Santino in the New York Continental Hotel, which is against the rules as the Continental Hotel is a safe haven where killing isn’t allowed, John Wick is declared “excomminicado” and a $14 million bounty is put on his head by the High Table, the shadowy group that runs the assassins network all around the world. Now on the run from the other assassins, John Wick must find a way to stay alive.
Probably the best thing about John Wick 3 is, unsurprisingly, the action scenes. The previous films have always excelled at fight choreography and stuntwork and this film is no exception. It’s just so over the top! You just know that John Wick should’ve been dead several times but he just keeps getting up! But you just ignore how unrealistic it it because it’s just so good! The combat is also very violent because there is a lot of bone breaking and heads being shot at close range and it’s just so visceral and satisfying.
Probably the best thing about the action, however, is that John Wick 3, like the other movies, really plan then out. Because of this, a lot of the fights have very few cuts in between them. They’re usually one good extended camera shot focused on the action before it moves to the next angle so you really see all the hard work and preparation done to get that one shot.
Also, since they meticulously plan out the combat, John Wick 3 doesn’t have to rely on something that a lot of action movies do these days: shaky cam. You really see what’s happening clearly and it’s glorious! I definitely have to commend all the people here. That includes the director, stunt personnel, actors and cinematographer, as each and every fight scene is so easy to follow and a definite nice change of pace from all the shaky reliance on shaky cam most action movies have these days.
The acting from everyone is spot on. Keanu Reeves once again plays the titular character and he once again pulls off a great performance. On one hand, you can say that Keanu’s acting here is pretty one dimensional as he basically only has around three emotional states. However, he does give the character a lot of emotional weight, which is rather impressive considering he does generally go through just three emotional states! Ian McShane and Lance Reddick also return as Winston, the manager of the Continental, and Charon, the Continental’s concierge. They also pull off really fantastic atmospheric performances. I particularly enjoyed the two newcomers, Mark Dacascos as Zero, the assassin brought in by the High Table to take out John Wick, and Asia Kate Dillon as the Adjudicator, who carries out the High Table’s will. They bring a lot of panache to their roles and they’re just great in the film.
Even the weakest performances come off as generally good as well. It’s weird to say that Laurence Fishburne and Halle Berry pull off the weakest performances but I just never felt they really “fit” in the world. Laurence Fishburne is just too boisterous of a fellow and Halle Berry just comes off as angry. Both of them just don’t feel like they belong in this specific film noir atmosphere John Wick 3 is going for. They just don’t feel like they have this shadowy side that the other characters in the film has. Even so, they do pull off good performances but just not quite with the “coolness” level of the other actors.
As enjoyable John Wick 3 is, it has one really glaring weakness: the plot. It’s seems audacious that I should be complaining about the plot of a John Wick film. I mean, the first film was about a guy who wanted revenge on the people who stole his car and killed his dog, right? But the problem in John Wick 3 is they just try to tell this grand story with all these moving parts while trying to add to the franchise’s world mythology. They simply bit off more than they can chew here as the overall story of John Wick 3 comes off as bloated and clunky.
I will even say that the new moments of world building here doesn’t add anything to John Wick mythos in the long run since they never do anything with it. Maybe it’ll be a factor in a future installment but it hurts the movie as it’s an unnecessary distraction which is never mentioned throughout the film. But even if the plot is a bust, the action and the overall atmosphere more than makes up for it.
Overall, I still really enjoyed John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum. The action is still really great and hard hitting thanks to the lack of shaky cam and Keanu Reeves performance as John Wick is still a blast. However, it does come off as the weakest entry in the John Wick series of films so far because of the really bad plot and the weak world building this time around. Even so, John Wick 3 is still much better than most action movies out there. If this movie does well, which it most probably will, we’ll see another entry in the John Wick series. I just hope we don’t have to wait too long for it.
Have you seen John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!