Hey everyone! I was hoping to write this review a little sooner, but I just got back from a short vacation in Austin (great barbecue, by the way). Alas, I’m back and I want to talk about the latest installment in one of the greatest action franchises of the last few decades (perhaps ever), John Wick. Keanu Reeves is back to kickin’ butts and takin’ names in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, which finds our merciless, dog-loving hero in the same predicament in which we found him at the end of Chapter 2: attempting to escape the city before a worldwide contract on his head goes into effect. With limited resources at his disposal, Wick must find a way not only to escape with his life, but also to get even against the people who have continued to wrong him.
What Was Good?
As expected, if you’ve seen either of the previous two films, the fight choreography and action in Chapter 3 is tremendous, breath-taking, and perhaps the best of the entire franchise up to this point. Keanu Reeves continues to impress as an actor committed to doing his own stunts and fight scenes, all of which are insanely difficult to pull off and, I presume, physically taxing. Despite a little bit of a drag in the middle of the film, the action is relentlessly fast-paced from start to finish. On top of that, the action set-pieces and fight sequences are highly inventive, unique, and never repetitive (considering this is the third entry in the “gun fu” franchise, that’s crazy impressive). If you thought that Wick’s use of pencils and other mundane, household items in previous films was nuts, wait until you see what he can do with a horse (yikes!).
One of the most underrated aspects of this franchise that I absolutely love is the world-building. The first film introduced us to the Continental, a hotel that served as a central hub for an underground community of contract killers. The second chapter further contextualized the Continental and showed how it fit into the grand scheme of things. Parabellum doubles down on all of this and continues the mythology of the Continental, the High Table, and the bureaucracy that drives it all in a super fascinating way. Although the rules of the High Table get a little convoluted at times (more on that in a bit), I love how this film and the franchise as a whole fosters an “honor among thieves” vibe intertwined with a James Bond-esque network of assassins and associated role players. It provides an additional layer of complexity to an otherwise straight-forward, action-heavy film, which sets it apart from its contemporaries.
All of this would be for naught if the writers and director didn’t understand what this movie truly is, which is a mind-blowing action flick infused with some good ole fashioned ‘80s action cheese. The tone is, once again, pitch-perfect for Wick; never does this film take itself too seriously, despite raising the stakes and scale considerably. Put simply, Parabellum is ludicrous and wildly entertaining in all the best ways. Lest we forget this entire series of movies started with a former assassin going on a blood-soaked rampage in the name of revenge for a puppy. Speaking of which, Chapter 3 prominently features a good bit of German Shepherd-dealt pupper revenge that helps Wick and friends (although under-utilized, Halle Berry was a nice addition to John Wick’s hijinks as well). In other words, if you like what you got with the first two chapters in the John Wick saga, you’re getting more of the same here (in a good way).
What Was Bad?
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the third Wick, it wasn’t without its problems. The villain, for starters, did nothing for me. She was unintimidating, super bland and, perhaps intentionally, extremely robotic. Although I liked the purpose she served for the plot, the writers, director, and/or the actress could’ve done a better job giving her a certain wit or charm, which would’ve made her more memorable (her crony though was fantastic; he was hilariously fantastic). It’s a shame, since I found the villains in the first two films to be pretty great and compelling in their own ways, to be honest.
As mentioned before, the rules surrounding certain story elements regarding the High Table were either ill-explained or inconsistently applied. This detracted from the otherwise phenomenal world-building present in the film. The end result is some of the storylines that were introduced didn’t get a proper payoff by the end. That’s about all I can say about this particular aspect without spoiling the movie so I’ll leave it at that.
This brings me to the ending. Up until the last 5-10 minutes of the movie, I thought this might be the final chapter to one of the best movie trilogies of all time, action or otherwise. Unfortunately, Parabellum (without spoiling anything specific) ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, leaving the door wide open for at least one more film. While it could payoff for future installments, I couldn’t help but feel that this type of ending degraded what was an otherwise outstanding film. I just kind of wished they would stop while they were ahead. Nevertheless, it looks like the John Wick franchise is going the way of the Fast and Furious series and sticking around indefinitely. I suppose this won’t necessarily be a problem, as long as they keep making quality films like this one. Only time will tell…
While I still loved it, I would probably place this entry in third place compared to the rest of the series (Chapter 2 is still the cream of the crop to me).
What Should Catholics Know?
As you can probably imagine, there’s little benefit religiously or morally speaking from a movie about a bunch of assassins killing each other in super duper gruesome ways, so I won’t pretend to defend it from that angle. I mean, my goodness, the violence had me looking away quite a few times; it’s a lot to take in and is certainly not for the faint of heart. Put another way, if you’re looking for anyone involved in a civilized yet insanely brutal organization of assassins who kill mercilessly and without hesitation to be a representative of Christian values, you’re going to find John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum quite lacking.
Now, with the obvious out of the way, the movie does touch on an interesting theme: consequences. Throughout the film, John Wick and his associates are forced to make decisions that have everlasting consequences, and the story doesn’t shy away from this. Without spoiling key plot points, Wick has to make a decision that shows the audience that sometimes our goals and desires may not allow us to live a moral life. The ends don’t necessarily justify the means, and it is important to know when the two are at odds. At the absolute very least, the film shows that a life lived the way John Wick lives it is wrought with loss, suffering, and betrayal of one’s own morals and principles. I think that’s an important lesson to take away…ya know, crazy ninja violence and bloodshed notwithstanding.
Should You See It?
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is an absolute treat of an action flick. Chock full of Keanu Reeves-led “gun fu” action, wild set-pieces, and excellent world-building, this film is super fun and cheesy entertainment of the highest order. Provided you can handle some preposterously over-the-top violence, go see it in theaters if you can. Don’t bring the kids though!
My Score: 8.8
Have you seen the third John Wick yet? How did it compare to the rest of the series for you? What do you hope to see in future installments? Let me know!
Until next time, stay tuned and God Bless!