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Movie Review: John Wick 3

Nearly five years ago, the action film John Wick burst on to the scene and became one of the biggest sleeper hits of the decade. Critics lauded it’s action scenes, story, world building and of course, the film’s star Keanu Reeves. It catapulted first time directors and long time stuntmen, as well as second unit directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch into super stardom, allowing the latter to get great projects such as Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, and quickly spawned another acclaimed sequel two and a half years later and a far more successful film financially. Now with the release of John Wick 3: Parabellum can the excellent streak keep it up or has John Wick ran out of luck?

The story for John Wick 3 is, unfortunately, the weakest in the series. The story follows John Wick, almost out of his one hour head start before he’s excommunicado, running for his life. The story doesn’t focus on developing John or adding much in progression of the story, it’s main John running, fighting and doing everything he can to set things right with The High Table while a character named The Adjudicator punishes those who helped John as well as trying to end him. It’s the same song and dance as the last movie the whole world wants a piece of John Wick and he has to be a one man army throughout. True we do get some small glimpses into his backstory but they’re too vague and only lightly touched upon and never mentioned again. What the story focuses on instead is one of the franchise’s biggest strengths: World Building. We get to see more of how the world of John Wick works, a glimpse at who the enigmatic High Table, other global locations and how certain things are ran. It is all truly fascinating such as the High Table’s obsession with Religion such as using terms like excommunicado, deconsecrated and even utilizing stigmata to establish loyalty. I really would love to know more as to why they use Religion so heavily. It’s also interesting to see so many new players as well as the consequences some have to suffer when they go against the High Table. As amazing as the world building is it does also hinder the film a bit. The world just grows and grows and grows, it;s become far too big for one man and as such it can get rather annoying to follow a solitary man when so many interesting characters and ideas exist around him. While it may not be that strong the story for John Wick still has a lot of interesting ideas even if we have to go through the motions again.

The characters for John Wick 3 are mostly interesting

In the first film the titular John Wick was an great character. A man who was the best of the best, a man who was so feared he was seen as the boogeyman by all, a man who wanted violent vengeance not just for the murder of his dog but because he was refused his opportunity to grieve. That man who moved Heaven and Earth to get his vengeance no longer exists. Instead he has been replaced with a man who simply kills to survive. John has become a cold character. Yes we do get glimpses at the interesting character he once was but otherwise he’s just a standard action hero. He may be cool but he greatly lacks depth.

Sofia, an ally of John’s, is an interesting character but we don’t get to see much of her as she’s only in the film for twenty minutes. Her past with John makes for some interesting conflict and he use in attack dogs make her a unique character, her love for them also being touching if not demented. 

The Adjudicator is one of our main villains for the film and they’re not particularly good. Like the other villains in the series they’re dumber then a sack of bricks. The Adjudicator has to stop John and punish all who helped him and granted the position they hold does make for an interesting character, however the problem is they could make every single bad thing that befalls them and others if they simply just let John walk away. It really is that simple of a fix but like Viggo and Santino before them they choose the path of war and violence. To put it simply: They chose poorly. 

Our other main antagonist is Zero and unlike The Adjudicator he’s a very interesting villain. He’s sadistic and cruel and wants nothing more then to kill John even though he greatly admires him. He’s evil and he knows it and relishes in every single second of it which makes him both amusing and intimidating.

The Bowery King and Winston, tow of John’s allies, are still good and enjoyable characters. The Bowery King is, unfortunately, given less to do but he still is a pleasure to see and Winston is given more of a substantial role and finds himself in great conflict which adds some good depth to his character.

The acting for John Wick 3 is very well done

Keanu Reeves once again gives a solid performance as John Wick. Though not as strong and moving as his first go at the character Reeves still manages to give an engaging performance and it truly is astounding to see him do most of his own stunts. 

Halle Berry gives a good performance as Sofia. She has great chemistry with Reeves and from the start establishes herself as immensely intimidating. Like Reeves, Berry put a lot of hard work and effort into her role with not only martial arts training but dog training as well and he hard work pays off as everything she and her dogs do is absolutely amazing to watch.

Asia Kate Dillon does well as The Adjudicator. Dillon gives a quite menacing performance and is very memorable even with having little to do. It’s also incredible to see an important character be played by, and also be identified as, a non-binary actor. 

Mark Dacascos steals the entire film as Zero. Dacascos has had a long career in action films with such classic as Only The Strong, Drive, Brotherhood of the Wolf and Crying Freeman. It’s nice to see him get such an important role in this day and age and it’s one that turned out great for all of us. Like his character Dacascos revels in hi villainy and doesn’t just simply chew the scenery, he straight up devours it. Whenever he was on screen everyone in the theater laughed and had a good time, he was a fearsome force to be reckoned with but was also very amusing throughout. Hopefully this helps him other, similar roles in the near future.

Laurence Fishburne is very entertaining as The Bowery King. Fishburne simply has fun with his role while also taking it seriously, which does make it shame that there’s less of him here then in the previous film.
Ian McShane once again gives a fine performance as Winston being very charismatic and enjoyable in his role, while giving a surprising performance towards the end of the film.

For this film we have a large and surprising supporting cast. First of all there’s returning actor Lance Reddick who once more plays The Concierge. Reddick is very enjoyable, suave and sophisticated in his role.  Jason Mantzoukas has a brief role as The Tick Tock Man. It’s a shame it’s so short because Mantzoukas gives a very entertaining performance. Lastly Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman, both of The Raid fame, make surprising appearances as Zero’s main henchmen. They get a chance to stand out and show off their skills and it’s clear Stahelski is huge fan of their films. It’s also very nice to see Ruhian used properly in an American film for a change.

Lastly the action scenes for John Wick 3 are excellent. In the previous film Stahelski went it alone and I found the action to be sloppy and derivative at times. The editing could be too quick, the cinematography wasn’t always spot on and John just kept using the same exact grapple over and over again. I worried that Leitch was the reason the action was so good in the first film. Thankfully my worries are put to rest as Stahelski and his team deliver excellent action scene after excellent action scene. The fight choreography is varied, visceral and different in each scene. The shootouts are vicious, long and are very stylized that would make John Woo himself shed a tear of joy. There’s also plenty of unique kills such as John turning people into human pin cushions, using a horse as a deadly weapon and of course Sofia’s dogs. Each action scene is absolutely astounding and are some of the best you’ll see all year, for me the stand out was the fight in Morocco with Sofia and her dogs. It all accumulates in an explosive and fantastic finale which, along with every other scene, will keep you on the edge of your seat. My only complaint is that in the fight scenes John gains the upper hand far too quickly and the fight just turns into a one sided beat down. It’s not that big a deal for the most part however with the fights against Dacascos, Ruhian and Rahman it’s very annoying since I really like and respect those three actors.

Final Thoughts: John Wick 3 might not have a strong story but it makes up for that with excellent action, great world building, some good characters and good acting. It has it’s flaws but I adored every last visceral second of this film and I doubt any other big action movie this year will come close to being as good. Here’s to the next chapter in the bloody tale of Baba Yaga.

Verdict: 4/5

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I've loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor's in Journalism and I have Asperger's Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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