Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Moviedom’s favourite dog-loving hitman is back but this time John is on the run from everyone and there’s nowhere for him to go.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM picks up minutes after JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 ends. In case you missed seeing that last chapter, John (Keanu Reeves, JOHN WICK; TO THE BONE) kills someone in the lounge of the Continental Hotel, which is run by his friend, Winston (Ian McShane, soon to be seen in the DEADWOOD movie). That’s an absolute no-no in the Wickiverse and Winston has no choice but to declare John “excommunicado”, revoking his sanctuary privileges and access to all of the Continental’s resources. But Winston delays the announcement for an hour to give time for John to get away before everyone in the underworld comes after him… and they do because there’s now a US$14 million bounty on his head. After fending off wave after wave of knife-wielding goons in the stacks of the New York Public Library, at an antique armoury, inside one of the Central Park horse stables, inside the Grand Central Terminal and on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, John calls in a few markers, one from a ballet director and member of the High Table (Anjelica Huston, THE GRIFTERS) and the other from fellow assassin, Sofia (Halle Berry, KIDNAP), who owns two very well trained killer mastiffs. His journey takes him from New York to Morocco and back again, and John must take on the full resources of the High Table and its emissary, the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon, TV’s ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK), if he’s to stay alive.

Like the first two films in the series, story takes a back seat to action in this film. This is the cinematic equivalent of a first-person shooter video game with plenty of levels that get progressively harder to beat. Knowing that, JOHN WICK 3 does not disappoint because the stunt choreography is A-plus-plus. The first two fight scenes are immensely enjoyable to watch, of course ignoring the fact that they’re hyper-violent with guys getting stabbed and axed to death in the most gruesome of ways. It only takes a few minutes for the body count to reach 20 and it goes much, much higher as the story progresses. Once again, Reeves does a fabulous job as the assassin who takes a licking and keeps on ticking, making him a sympathetic character even though his only redeeming quality is that he loves dogs. In my review of the first JOHN WICK film, I wrote that McShane could make reading a telephone book seem riveting and I stand by that comment after watching him in this film too. I’ve had a man-crush on him since he starred in the TV show, DEADWOOD, and it’s showing no sign of abating. Equally fabulous is Lance Reddick (TV’s BOSCH), who reprises his role as Charon, the concierge at the Continental.

Unfortunately, the problem I had with the first film, I have this one too. This is supposed to be a neo-noir thriller but it’s not noir enough. The laughs are fine and well-earned but when it should have been more BLADE RUNNER-ish, it didn’t quite get there. As I wrote in my review of the first film, this film also needed a dose of David Lynch’s weirdness.

The casting, too, was a bit head-scratching. Save for her Oscar-winning performance in MONSTER’S BALL in 2001, I never thought much of Halle Berry’s acting chops and she’s proven me right here too. There is no nuance to Sofia. She is angry and her face is in permanent scowl mode, which is actually hard to see given all the Botox the actress has been injecting over the years. But as miscast as she is, far worse is the performance by Asia Kate Dillon. I don’t care that they (she’s neither a she nor a he) are non-binary. They are horribly wooden and should not be acting. In every scene they are in, I was hoping John or anyone else for that matter would kill them quickly so that I wouldn’t have to listen to their grating voice anymore. I would have preferred to have seen someone who can play a badass well like Dutch actress, Sylvia Hoeks (BLADE RUNNER 2049; THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB) in that role.

Though the film is about ten minutes too long and could have very easily been cut down to under two hours, JOHN WICK 3 is still very entertaining. Reeves has said that he doesn’t want the franchise to continue, feeling that any more might ruin the series. Certainly, JOHN WICK 3 ends on a note that indicates that we haven’t seen the last of John, Winston, Charon and some of the others. Reeves is already 54 though, and may not be physically up to doing another chapter. Time and money will tell.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, May 17th at 8:30 am HK time!

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