I’m new to the John Wick universe, having eschewed the franchise the first time out because all I knew about it was his dog died, and that kept me away until now. This week I devoured all three, and with most things like this, I found the first one interesting (and the dog part not as bad as it was in my head), the second one the best, and diminishing returns on the latest installment, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (a cumbersome title if ever there was). While it still offers plenty of the death and dismemberment that is synonymous with the Wick name, in this installment John has now gone full super hero and in order to keep the franchise going, nothing means anything and there are no consequences that make any difference for our hero.
Picking up where the last one left off, John Wick (Keanu Reeves, who really is perfectly cast for this) is now excommunicated from his community by his old pal, Winston (Ian McShane) and must dodge a city full of assassins in order to sneak out of the country, into another one, to negotiate for his life and offer penance for his sins. The journey brings him to old connections (Laurence Fishburne) and new (Anjelica Huston), all the while someone known only as the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) sets about cleaning up the messy situation by scowling a lot and ordering people to be cut.
There’s a section of the film in Morocco with Sofia (Berry), an old acquaintance of Wick, has the most energy, but it is the first highlight of the major flaw of the film. They set up a world where this mythical organization looms in the background and everyone fears any attempt to defy it, and yet, people continue to do that with little to no change in their circumstances. The entire conclusion sets up a seemingly impossible choice for Wick, something that is discomfiting (in a good way) for the audience, because there’s no easy solution. And yet when it comes down to it, the moral dilemma is just shrugged off. That aside, the movie, as expected, is filled with stunningly choreographed fights and the pacing moves quickly enough that there’s never a dull moment. While the bodies continue to pile up, it never feels completely mindless and empty (which it kind of is, to be fair). Reeves, and Berry in her all too brief time on screen, do such a good job with the action that the whole plot (and the issues involved) don’t weigh the film down as much as they should.
Director Chad Stahelski, who helmed the first two as well, does a great job with the action and the mood, and he has done a good job with creating a unique universe. It does feel a bit like this one is coasting rather than driving to any new point.
My Grade – C+