Movie Review | John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Movie summary: Super-assassin John Wick is on the run after killing a member of the international assassin's guild, and with a $14 million price tag on his head - he is the target of hit men and women everywhere. (IMDb)
I didn't dislike John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (from here on referred to as 'John Wick 3' or 'Parabellum' because that title is bloody stupid), but I can't say that I particularly liked it either. I don't know if it's a case of too much of the same thing wearing out its welcome after watching the first two films just before seeing this, or simply diminishing returns from what was once a simple premise.
Remember when John Wick's story was a straight-forward revenge tale filled with great visuals, amazing action, interesting characters and a laser-guided story that let nothing get in its way? I said that Chapter 2 appeared to be the series' Iron Man 2, but I think we've got to the same level of quality with this movie now - albeit for entirely different reasons.
One similarity is that this isn't really a movie - it's taken watching Chapters 2 and 3 in close proximity to accept that those titles are accurate. Neither this movie nor the previous one have a real beginning or end, they just continue. Each of them has a final scene that acts as a hook to come back for the next instalment, rather than closing out this piece of the story.
As a result, John Wick 3 feels more than a little insubstantial. Regardless of what people may think of them, the MCU movies at least have endings of a sort, even if story threads are left open for the next movie or the one after that. This series only has the threads now, leaving me tempted to not watch any future Wick movies until the franchise is over and I can binge them like a TV show.
Repeating the mistake of the last movie, it seems the people behind Parabellum are far too interested in trying to add to the world of John Wick because they can, rather than because they need to. The first movie in the series feels insanely grounded now, despite the secret society of killers we get to meet.
Here, we're getting into dumb, borderline mystical idiocy that feels more fictional than any superhero movie. Maybe it's a fault on my part - maybe this was always the intention for those making these movies and the first film was to just test the waters, so didn't have quite so much craziness? John Wick's world isn't the same as ours now, by any stretch.
This has a knock-on effect, because if you're going to get as ludicrous with the setting as this movie does, then the entire movie better bloody live up to it. Normally for this series, that would mean some insane and inventive action, of which there is plenty here - but there is one drawback this time that even Chapter 2 didn't suffer.
The action goes on too long. Way, way too long at times. Parabellum is just over two hours long and there is absolutely no reason for it to last as long as it does. There are multiple action sequences that look like they're going to be the series' best, but they. Just. Keep. Going. On. And. On. And. On. They don't exhaust you because they're thrilling, but because they become tiresomely boring after a while.
Don't get me wrong, the production values, the staging and the choreography are all highly impressive, but that wouldn't change if the action lasted half as long either. It almost feels like a series of badly-designed videogame encounters: each sequence has a gimmick that textures that particular scenario, and the movie rams it down your throat to make sure you understand exactly how cool this all should be to you.
Keanu Reeves is still impressive as John Wick, but he's given even less to do here than last time out, other than act as the most prominent stuntman. Despite how well Reeve's detached manner works for a stone-cold killer like Wick, even his change to accepting the less 'real' side of things doesn't quite work, and this doesn't feel like the Baba Yaga we've come to know by this point.
In fact, to go back to the point above, even his character starts to feel like a videogame protagonist - one from Assassin's Creed in particular. Being sent on a mystical quest, swearing blood oaths, elite enemies more resistant to his usual attacks, and even losing a finger to show his devotion to the cause could all come straight out of that particular franchise.
This all results in John Wick 3 feeling like a bit of a mess and, much like Iron Man 2, a whole ton of subplots intertwined with each other instead of a strong central narrative with depth and layers. The overly-long action scenes affect the pacing too, with the movie coming across as much longer than its 130 minutes and having me wondering just when it was all going to end.
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is as unwieldy and over-long as its title would suggest. The production level is still top-tier for the budget, with some incredible-looking sets and sequences, but everything else is starting to show signs of wear and tear. Action scenes go on too long despite their initial inventiveness, and the story is getting more and more ridiculous, with no sign of restraint in sight.