Film Review - John Wick Chapter 3

This image released by Lionsgate shows Keanu Reeves in a scene from "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum." (Niko Tavernise/Lionsgate via AP)

In 2014 the world was graced with Keanu Reeves in the very first John Wick film. Reeves, who has been known best by his turn as Neo in “The Matrix” trilogy, has found another action trilogy and one that could be seen as his best trilogy yet.

John Wick will not be a trilogy for very long though. The success of the John Wick franchise has led to “John Wick 4” already being greenlit for a 2021 release.

In the current release, “John Wick 3: Parabellum,” Reeves hits his stride as the character John Wick. Quite literally too, since there is a scene with Keanu Reeves’ John Wick riding a horse during an action scene. The entirety of the John Wick franchise is built on the action scene.

In life and society there is always a place for a good, well made action movie. People love them and I love them, but only when well made. Action has the tendency to get stale or to get repetitive during the common two-hour run-time of most films.

The setup for the John Wick franchise should, for all intents and purposes, lead to this very repetitive or stale effect, especially with this being on the third film of the franchise.The John Wick trilogy does stick to its format in “John Wick 3: Parabellum.” 

“John Wick 3: Parabellum” follows the tried and true technique of the first two films, less story more action. Story in the John Wick franchise is simplistic at best.

The plot of “John Wick,” the first film, was you killed my dog, so I will get my revenge on you, an action film as ode to all dog lovers. John Wick is a former assassin and has the skills to enact his revenge and does so in “John Wick.”

“John Wick: Chapter 2” starts as revenge because on those who have his car, this leads into paying back a debt that is owed by the character of John Wick to another character. In “John Wick: Chapter 2,” Mr. Wick shoots a member of “the high table,” a fictional table that is the head of a group or league of assassins.

“Si vis pacem, para bellum” is Latin for “If you want peace, prepare for war.” The phrase parabellum is used as the tagline for the “John Wick 3: Parabellum.” Essentially, “John Wick 3: Parabellum” ups the ante on each of its predecessors. In the beginning of “John Wick 3: Parabellum” the premise is that there is a contract on John Wick’s life. This contract on John Wick’s life leads to him seeking vengeance or revenge on those who aim to harm him. John Wick must fight his way through the streets of New York as he becomes the target of the world's most ruthless killers.

Keanu Reeves only gets better in the role of John Wick. It is a role he was born to play. The knock on Reeves his whole career is his overly dramatic tone and acting in roles or scenes where it is not necessary. Enter the “John Wick” franchise, where the main character barely talks and when he does every word is meant to be dramatic and oversold to the audience. 

The brilliance behind Reeves acting comes in the physical aspects of the roles he takes. Reeves is unafraid to learn what he needs to or do what he needs to do as an actor to do his own stunts. In all 3 John Wick films, Reeves does 95 percent of his own stunts. Reeves has learned high-speed driving and multiple forms of martial arts.

John Wick is also a character headed through a story in a completely straight line. In “John Wick 3: Parabellum” it is John Wick trying to get everyone that is out to get him before they get him. That is a straight line; the story is mostly only used to get the character from one action scene to the next culminating in one big action scene that wraps up the arc for that film.

The action scenes are fast paced and one of the best aspects of “John Wick 3: Parabellum” is the close quarter combat. Close quarter combat done right can give the viewer a feeling of being apart of it.

The firearm combat is also often done in close quarters and Reeves seamlessly goes from one bad guy to the next almost always ending in a “Finish Him,” Mortal Combat style finesse move. 

Reeves best acting and film work has always been his action films. “Speed,” “The Matrix,” and “Point Break” are all among his best, the John Wick franchise tops them all. 

“John Wick 3: Parabellum” also introduces two new actresses and key players in “John Wick 3: Parabellum.” Asia Kate Dillon as The Adjudicator and Halle Berry as Sophia. Asia Kate Dillon is straight business as The Adjudicator and her character is monotone and singularly dedicated. The Adjudicator’s goal is to clean up the John Wick mess for the high table. Halle Berry was brought in as a female supporting role to the John Wick character. Sophia is meant to be the female version of John Wick, someone John Wick likes, knows, and respects and can rival himself in combat. Berry puts in her finest performance in years.

Reeves’ and Berry’s fight scene is the best in “John Wick 3: Parabellum.” The scene is fast paced and swift, while also being brutal and memorable, especially with Sophia’s dogs in on the fight scene.

The favorites are also back from “John Wick: Chapter 2,” Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King and Ian McShane’s Winston. My personal favorite character outside of John Wick, however, is that of Lance Reddick’s Charon.

Favorite characters aside, “John Wick 3: Parabellum” quickly has become a favorite action film and one of the best of the series. I still prefer the franchise in its simplest form as the original “John Wick” was. You kill my dog, I kill you. Action films are often meant as escapist and for me the simpler the premise the better. Just show me the fight scenes because that is what the audience wants and that is what the entire “John Wick” franchise does best.

“John Wick 3: Parabellum” just adds to the mythos of the John Wick franchise and the mystery surrounding the high table and the assassins group, guild, or league. I hope they do not change any of the format or style of the John Wick films going forward. The format is tested, the format works and generally fans are pleased and love John Wick.

Reeves is in full stride in “John Wick 3: Parabellum” and leaves the audience wanting more. The next iteration should be epic, “John Wick 3: Parabellum” wanted the audience to prepare for war. “John Wick 4” should be all out war, hopeful raising the stakes and the character of John Wick even higher.

One thing is true, 2021 can not come fast enough for those of us who want more from John Wick.

 

IRATE SCORE: 3.5/5

 

Jason Guyer is an avid moviegoer and works in the graphics department at the Eagle Times. For questions or comments he can be emailed at guyerj@eagletimes.com

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