“The Boogeyman” is back! John Wick (Keanu Reeves) returns for the third installment to this action franchise about a retired assassin brought back into the killing business after his beloved dog is killed and car stolen from him in the first film. With a price on his head after breaking the rules of the New York City Continental (an assassin safe haven) in the 2017 sequel, John must muster every ounce of his killing ability and stamina to survive the endless wave of assassins out to claim the $14 million bounty on his head.
And like the two films that preceded it, John Wick 3: Chapter 3 – Parabellum pushes the envelope of the modern action genre with more over-the-top action, a ridiculous body count, a sillier story and more bad acting with cringe-worthy ostentatiousness. I very much enjoyed it – even when there was too much of it.
Directed by Chad Stahelski (John Wick, John Wick: Chapter 2), John Wick 3 continues from the ending of John Wick 2, right after John is declared “excommunicado” by Winston (Ian McShane). Even though the plot is very basic (half the movie is just him fighting) and the story does recap key moments of the previous movies, watching the first and second film will help you understand and better appreciate the secretive world of assassins John Wick is a part of.
After the events of Chapter 2, John Wick finds himself on the run. Being “excommunicado” means he cannot utilize the network of help he had access to previously, meaning he has no access to weapons, medical assistance or sanctuary. Wounded and becoming more injured with every violent encounter against the scores of assassins out to kill him, John must now find a way to lift the price on his head and appease the members of the High Table before he is eventually killed.
Despite being an outcast from his assassin community, he’s still able to find some help from friends from his past who cannot refuse him. The Director (Anjelica Huston) – a woman who was responsible for his upbringing and protection – is able to provide John passage to Casablanca where he’s able to rendezvous with Sofia (Halle Berry), manager of the Casablanca Continental and a dangerous warrior in her own right. She owes John a debt which he calls on for her assistance. But even with the help of these friends, the odds are stacking up against him with the arrival of The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) – a representative of the High Table – who calls in the help of Zero (Mark Dacascos) and his ninja warriors to bring an end to John Wick and those who have helped him once and for all.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone who’ve seen the other John Wick movies, but the acting hasn’t improved since the first two installments. Keanu Reeves gives the same wooden performance he always does, which suits his character’s dry sense of humor. When he delivers the single word responses or one line sentences it’s not so bad. When he’s required to deliver any kind of emotional dialogue, however, he can be pretty woeful to watch. Laurence Fishburne, Asia Kate Dillon and Mark Dacascos all deliver equally poor performances that are hindered by poorly written dialogue and bad direction. There’s no real acting chops on display here and there’s plenty of moments where you want the story to move along so you don’t have to hear them speak or pose anymore.
There is some light in the darkness, though. Halle Berry, Anjelica Huston, Ian McShane and Lance Reddic, once again playing Charon, concierge of the New York City Continental, all manage to deliver some solid performances despite the poor dialogue. These four steal the scene from the rest of the cast by coming across as more natural and plausible given the nature of the assassin world this story is set in.
But enough about the acting. Forget the acting. That’s not why we’re watching this movie. It’s a Keanu Reeves movie, for goodness sake. Let’s be honest – we’re here to watch Keanu Reeves kick ass. And boy does he deliver the goods. Nearly everything you see on the screen is personally handled by Reeves, who is 54 years-old. He puts action stars half his age to shame. This man is simply amazing as he delivers some of the most impressive action sequences put to screen.
With the help of brilliant fight choreography and equally impressive co-stars, Keanu Reeves is a combat whirlwind that leaves you speechless with the impressive physical feats he performs without a stunt double. Jujitsu, Judo, motorbike chases, close range shooting, swordplay and horse-riding – he does it all. And there’s no fancy camera work. No fancy editing. That is Keanu Reeves in front of the camera – again not a stunt double – kicking ass with an equally amazing Halle Berry beating up scores of bad guys. Berry has obviously undergone extensive training and is able to hold her own with Reeves and is an action star in her own right. With the help of her two attack dogs her fight scenes are simply amazing to watch and I hope they make a spin-off movie based off her character and her killer canines.
When the Bourne movies came out starring Matt Damon, they redefined the action genre with the shaky camera work and fast editing that helped turn non-martial artists into action stars. Many other movies followed suit, which I felt was a detriment to the action genre. For years I’ve complained about fast editing and bad camera work being used to compensate for the lack of fighting ability of actors. The action should be in front of the camera and easy to see and that is exactly what director Chad Stahelski has brought back and is a master of.
With just three movies under his belt, Stahelski has saved the action genre by redefining the action genre again by bringing back long shots with slower editing techniques so we can actually see what’s going on in the scene, and get to watch the actual star pulling off those crazy combat techniques. With 73 stunt credits in IMBD it’s no surprise why the action scenes in all John Wick movies are incredible to watch – and probably the reason why all this blistering action comes at the expense of the acting and, for some characters, bad casting.
Even though I found the acting in John Wick 3 to be rubbish, that’s not the thing that lets this film down. Because you don’t watch John Wick for dramatic performances. The thing that lets this movie down is – dare I say it – there’s too much action. I never thought I’d see the day where I’d say that about a movie because I love action movies. There’s too much action. There I said it.
The most creative and impressive action sequences are played out in the first half of the film. By the time we get to what’s supposed to be the climactic end fight sequence, you’re all actioned-out. You become numb due to the overindulgence of action and because they played their best hand in the first half of the film, the end action is dull by comparison which left the ending a bit dragged out and boring. Watching John Wick flip another bad guy or shooting him point blank in the head gets tiresome by the end and I couldn’t wait for the credits to roll because when the action gets boring, all that’s left is the story, and the story is pretty weak.
Despite the drawn out ending and (mostly) woeful acting, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is still an impressive high-energy action movie with some of the best and more pure action sequences I’ve seen since the original Matrix film 20 years ago. Given Stahelski’s involvement with the stunts in those movies it’s no surprise he knows how to keep action fans happy with highly stylized, impeccably choreographed, no-nonsense action sequences that put other films in this genre to shame. Maybe next time he’ll learn that there really can be too much of a good thing. Even when the action glut becomes exhausting, this is an easy recommendation for action fans. Action!!