As fun as previous instalments but the flaws are showing.
In the last instalment, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), a retired hitman, broke the underworld's cardinal rule by killing on neutral ground. His action leads him to be "excommunicado"—losing favour with the criminal syndicate and slapped with a USD14 million bounty on his head. With the world's top assassins trying to cash in, Wick turns to his former allies to try and make it out alive.
Here be spoilers…
What we like
As you can tell by the movie's title, "Parabellum" [sic], which is Latin for "prepare for war", this third instalment of the John Wick series goes all out with the action. Like its predecessors, the action choreography still quickens the pulse: Wick kills with guns, knives, katanas and even horses. That's right. John Wick kills a man with a goddamn horse.
The world of John Wick is further expanded as we understand how the criminal underworld operates and apparently, it involves a lot of paperwork. When the High Table (a council of high-level crime lords) sends The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) to clean up the mess, the whole operation is revealed to be a very bureaucratic affair: the people who had a hand in Wick's revenge and escape—Winston (Ian McShane), the Bowery King (Laurence Fishbourne) and the Director (Anjelica Huston)—are dealt with; throughout the film, contracts are drawn up, meetings are scheduled. Even John Wick is always in a suit and tie. It's like Office Space but the humour is replaced with wanton murder.
Not only is the movie continuing building this strange world that John Wick inhabits but it also further dips its toes into the deeper end of his life. His old allies Sofia (Halle Berry) and the Director add a few more pretexts to what makes Wick tick (he's a Belarusian son? he orchestrated his own witness protection programme?).
Zero (Mark Dacascos) as Wick's thorn in the side is entertaining. You might remember Dacascos mainly as the Chairman of Iron Chef America. No? Here's a video to jog the memory.
He balances the menace with humour; one moment he's cutting up people with abandon and the next he swoons over Wick's reputation when they meet.
We also enjoyed the fight scene in the room of glass. I mean, that's got to be hard to film a fight scene in a room filled with reflective surfaces without revealing the camera.
Also, I wanna give it up for the show's use of physics. In a tussle in a filled poo, a heavily-armoured soldier fires a gun point-blank at Wick but the bullet immediately slows against the water's natural drag. The soldier fires one more time but it resulted in the same outcome. Then Wick kills the soldier by a good-old fashion stabbing.
The scene is shot as a gag but it's not every day that we get to see a movie trope mythbusted on the big screen. I would further state my ebullience on this but Jesse Pinkman does it better:
What we didn't like
We mentioned the fight choreography, about how its the thing that the audience really responded to. It's still the elegance violence that the series is known for and the fight scenes were more vicious than the ones in the previous instalments… but, for some reason, at the end of the day, it all feels… well, choreographed.
There are many takes on what makes for a good fight choreography but I'll focus on the realism of it. A John Wick fight is a stylised exchange of punches and kicks but you can feel the hurt inflicted. Every time a fist connects or a knife sinks into flesh, you empathise with the pain. But there are some instances where it looked like a fighter is waiting for the strike or someone is too slow with the swing. It takes you out of it.
While you'll be spoilt for the number of action sequences in the movie, there are some that could use tightening up or done away with completely. The scene of Wick and Sofia escaping and fighting their way through enemies went on for way too long and the penultimate scene, which I love, just felt extraneous to the whole of the movie; like it's only there as fan service.
And there's also no logic follow-through with some of the sequences. Take the scene where Wick escapes on a horse through the city. Haven't seen anything like it since True Lies. Now Wick is pursued by two guys on motorcycles. Should be easy to capture Wick, right? But no, one of them decided to GRAB HIM OFF FROM THE HORSE. Did you leave your guns at home? Take out your gun and shoot your target. In fact, shoot the horse. Oh, you think that's cruel, Nameless Pursuant on an IMDB credit listing? Dog-killing in the first instalment is fine but horse-killing? GTFO.
What to look out for
There are guest stars to grace this third instalment. There's Philadelphia 76er, Boban Marjanovic, whom Wick encounters in the New York Public Library; Randall Duk Kim, who played the Keymaker back in The Matrix Reloaded, reunites with Reeves as the doctor who tends to him; Indonesian action masters—Cecep Arif Rahman and Yayan Ruhian—from The Raid and its sequel, make appearances in the penultimate battle with Wick and comedian Jason Mantzoukas, who once joked in a podcast about wanting to be cast in the third John Wick movie.
John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum is now out in theatres.