JOHN WICK: CHAPTER – PARABELLUM – Review
Let’s be frank: the real point of any John Wick movie is the high body count. And the fight choreography. Audiences get plenty of both in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM. The original JOHN WICK had a certain clean-cut appeal to its revenge theme of a legendary assassin forced out of retirement, and was lifted with doses of humor verging on action film parody sprinkled between the bloody action sequences. The sequel was far more complicated but still had a certain amount of charm with the characters at the hotel and a nice supporting cast. For the third installment, the filmmakers pile on even more complications, more exotic characters and also send Keanu Reeves’ John Wick on a virtual world tour in his quest to return to retirement in peace. And maybe get revenge for the latest insult, because he is all about balancing the score.
Just to be clear, this reviewer is a fan of well-done action, something the first JOHN WICK had in abundance. Curiously, there is less gun-play in this one, despite a scene where Keanu Reeves says “I need guns. Lots of guns.” Instead, he more often uses his bare hands, knives and swords, and improvised weapons. We knew he could kill with a pencil, now we know he can kill with a book.
While JOHN WICK 3 still has plenty – plenty – of action sequences and a mind-boggling body count, there is a kind of weariness that seeps in, both for the character and the audience. The stunt and fighting choreography is still good and when it gets cooking, it is electrifying to watch. But after a few of these fight sequences, it starts to look like the same fight choreography, just in different locations. After awhile it even looks like John himself is wearing down, and taking a beating, although he always rallies in the end. Luckily, those adversaries come at him one at a time, or by twos at most.
Don’t get me wrong, there are enjoyable moments. There are mirrored glass walls to dodge around or throw bodies through, gorgeous landscapes and city-scapes to chase through, and cars, motorcycles, and even horses for the chases. A nice touch near the end is a Buster Keaton homage, where John falls off a building. There is a kind of running joke about would-be assassins coming after John Wick who confess to being fans, and it feels of an old Western where the legendary gunfighter is facing down an endless string of ambitious young gunfighters eager to be the one to knock off the famous name – but first they have to say they are big fans.
The locations are colorful and pose extra challenges for John’s skills. The cast is packed with great stars, who each get their moment to shine. Among them are Laurence Fishburne, Halle Berry, Anjelica Huston as well as returning cast Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and more – each in their own colorful, exotic. underworld realm. Halle Berry’s sequence is particularly fun, and one wishes there were more of that one.
But it is a lot of plot, complicated connections and underworld characters to carry, which tends weigh down the whole film after awhile. The whole cast is great, but it is a bit like too much of a rich, delicious dessert all at once.
By the end, ol’ John Wick looks all in, and we kind of feel that way too. But the filmmakers are not done, as it sets up for a John Wick 4. Maybe after that, poor old John Wick can finally return to retirement. With the dog, of course.
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER – PARABELLUM opens Friday, May 17, at various theaters.
RATING: 3 out of 5 stars