“John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum,” was about the same as “Chapter 2” — it was two hours of how many variations Keanu Reeves can shoot bad guys in the head. How much (or how little) story or character development you need in your action movies will depend on your enjoyment of that element.
To the point — if you were entertained by any of the previous “John Wick” films, you’ll more than likely have a blast with “Parabellum.” It checks all of the boxes for any fans out there and continues Wick’s ongoing rampage against his various enemies from his life as an assassin. It advances the plot and total character arc of John as much as it needs to in order to keep the movie constantly going forward through countless shootouts and exotic set pieces.
But if you were hoping the third film was going to inject anything wildly new or change the formula a bit to keep things as fresh as possible, you’d be wrong. The climax and ending don’t leave the titular antihero in a much different place than at the beginning.
While the first film is a heck of a novelty the first time you watch it, what made the audience root for John seems to have long since faded away. The original managed to make the audience absolutely ecstatic watching him exact his revenge after being horribly wronged by some punk gangsters. As the bare-bones story has progressed through two sequels, however, any gut-punching storytelling that would make you really invested in this assassin’s awful rampage is nonexistent.
Along with the second film, “Parabellum” literally feels like two hours of hand-to-hand combat and gunshots to the head. While this third movie is probably the flashiest and has the best cinematography, it’s purely an exhibition in entertaining violence. I’m not necessarily criticizing this depiction of wanton, whizbang violence, as there definitely is an amusing, almost cartoonish brutality to it. Let’s face it: If the human race could justify it, we’d still have gladiators.
But between the three films, that’s the feeling of what starts to make the whole experience of a John Wick film, especially this one, lose its novelty and become a bit mind numbing. The rinse and repeat of it all becomes clearer and clearer the longer you watch it, the same guns that shoot the 50th faceless bad guy in the head for the 42nd time, and this critic couldn’t help but wonder, “How are these sequels entertaining?”
The ending in particular, without any spoilers, is just a bit of a letdown; it feels like a cheap way to ensure more sequels rather than progress the series toward anything new and fresh.
But the experience isn’t without moments that are genuinely a hoot to watch. An amazing knife fight early on is somehow both cringe-inducing and totally ridiculous in a good way.
Wick also takes a journey to Casablanca, and that sequence — including the given shootout and a journey into the Moroccan desert — is the highlight of the film. In fact, the series could use significantly more change-ups like this. It crosses exotic globe-trotting with the signature hand-to-gun combat the series is known for, and it provides a fascinating look into the brotherhood of assassins John was once a part of.
Reeves is also a ton of fun to watch as always as the titular hit man, and the few bits of character history and advancement he is given are actually interesting within the franchise’s world. And if it means they make 20 more of these movies to keep giving such a genuinely awesome human like Reeves some well-paying work while entertaining a whole lot of people, then there’s no reason to stop making them.
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“John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum” is currently playing at the Riverside Cinemas, 1017 S. Boone St. in Aberdeen.
George Haerle holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing for media and lives in Cosmopolis.