- Nico Tavernise/Lionsgate
- Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for “John Wick: Chapter 3.”
- Keanu Reeves does it again. Reeves kills in delightfully compelling, and sometimes tough to watch, fight scenes.
- The film is enjoyable, but the first two are better. (I re-watched the first two to make sure.)
- Honestly, you leave more excited for the premise of the film’s inevitable fourth film in the franchise than you are about the events of “John Wick 3.”
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You only have to wait about 10 minutes into the movie before you see Keanu Reeves beating a man mercilessly with a library book and that’s how much of the first half hour of “John Wick: Chapter 3” goes.
The sequel isn’t better than the first two, but, honestly, that was always going to be an impossible challenge. The first two movies in the franchise are that good. (They both have Rotten Tomatoes scores in the high 80s.)
Picking up moments after the second film, John Wick is on the run in New York City after murdering a member of the secretive international assassin’s group, The High Table, at the Continental hotel where murder is forbidden. As a result, every assassin in the city is after him and the $14 million bounty on his head.
“Parabellum” is an immensely enjoyable watch with a small lull in the middle that should keep fans excited and ready to come back for a fourth film. As long as “Parabellum” performs well at the box office, don’t expect this franchise to go anywhere. There’s plenty of story left to tell.
Do I need to watch the first two movies in the franchise to see “John Wick 3”? I don’t know why you’d see this if you haven’t seen the first two.
- Niko Tavernise/Lionsgate
Watching the “John Wick” franchise is more like watching a continuous TV narrative than a series of movies. The events in the first two films take place over the course of about a week or so. If you haven’t seen the first two movies, the third may be a bit tough to follow as it starts off right after the events of “John Wick 2.”
What you should know: It’s from the director of the first two movies, Laurence Fishburne is back, and a few new stars join “Parabellum.” It’s the most dog-friendly franchise you’ll ever watch.
“John Wick: Chapter 3” has the heart of the first two movies with director Chad Stahelski back for this third ride. Reeves is back as the assassin out of retirement and you’re going to watch this one for him. Fishburne joined the franchise in the sequel and is back for the third as the Bowery King, a man who leads his own group of assassins who pose as homeless people on the streets of New York City. Ian McShane is also back as the owner of the Continental hotel where Wick spilled blood.
Halle Berry joins the third film as one of John’s exes, Sofia, who helps him out of a pickle. Asia Kate Dillon (“Billions”) plays the Adjudicator, a quiet, mysterious force who’s there to enforce the rules of the High Table and ensure Wick is handled appropriately.
If you have an aversion to gore or gruesome acts of violence, “John Wick: Chapter 3” has some of the most intense scenes of the franchise. This is not for the squeamish. I turned my head at least twice, something I’ve never done before with this series.
Confused as to why John Wick is killing all of these people in these movies? Here’s a mini recap. Wick retired from his life as one of the world’s best assassins then his wife died and left him with a puppy. One night, a group of gangsters went into his home and killed his beloved dog and stole his classic Mustang. With nothing else to lose, Wick returned to assassin-mode to get revenge and hopefully get his car back (eventually, he did). Honestly, this is just a franchise about a man and his dog and the lengths one man will go to in order to avenge the death of his pup.
What’s hot: Some unbelievably enjoyable and well-choreographed fight scenes at the movie’s start, John Wick’s dog, and the big setup for a fourth movie in the franchise
- Lionsgate/Niko Tavernise
You don’t sit in too many press screenings where reviewers show a lot of emotion for a film. But the 30-40 people I screened “John Wick” with at the end of April were applauding and cheering for Wick during the first 45 minutes as the super assassin had several memorable fight sequences while on the back of a horse and in a library.
You’ve seen some of this already in the trailers and they never get boring because of the many unique ways in which he kills the men coming for him. In “John Wick 3,” we watch Keanu Reeves use knives, books, horses, a belt, and more to take down foes.
The film doesn’t shy away from gruesome and violent deaths. We’ve seen bloody deaths before in the “John Wick” universe, but not like the ones here. “Parabellum” pushes the envelope and delivers with at least two scenes that may make you turn your head. If you were pleased with the fight scenes at the movie’s start, you’ll be extra-satisfied with the film’s final 30 minutes with Wick going into an all-out war as a one man killing machine.
The introduction of Dillon’s Adjudicator is a great addition to the franchise. Dillon does most of their acting with their eyes in “Parabellum.” They are succinct and to the point and their performance commands your attention in every scene. As Dillon told us, Reeves and director Chad Stahelski wanted someone who could walk into a room and unsettle everyone, even Wick and Winston (McShane) and they do just that. I expect to see more of Dillon in the future.
John’s love for his unnamed pitbull is one of the franchise’s highlights. He knows he’s about to be hunted by an army of assassins in New York City, but he makes it a point to protect his dog at all costs even if that means sending him along by himself on a cab ride to a hotel. Is there any movie franchise that is kinder to dogs? I think not.
What’s not: A slow second act and too many gratuitous shots of dogs diving at men in the crotch
- Mark Rogers/Lionsgate
There’s a scene midway through “John Wick 3” where Wick has to cross through a desert for what seems like days. Perhaps it’s hours. It’s unclear. For a moment, I thought I was watching Warner Bros.’ DC movie “Aquaman,” which also sees its hero go on a journey traversing through a desert aimlessly until he finds his reward.
If I had to watch “John Wick 3” again, I’d want to fast-forward through some of the middle so John could carry on to the movie’s inevitable third act, which is very enjoyable and sets up a fourth film in the franchise. Even with a big third act, the fight sequences with Wick began to feel a bit monotonous by the movie’s end. That’s a first for the franchise. The most tired and cliché moments of the film come around the middle when Sofia’s dogs deliberately attack men in the crotch, not once or twice, but multiple times for minutes on end. It quickly becomes an eyeroll-worthy moment.
The inclusion of Mark Dacascos’ character, Zero, who oddly worships John while wanting to kill him was also a bit over the top. Some may not be fans of the film’s gratuitous violence at times. But you probably wouldn’t be watching these movies in the first place.
Overall: If you loved the first two “John Wick” movies, you’re seeing this regardless. You should still have a pretty good time.
The John Wick franchise is at its best when Wick is allowed to do what he does best: Shoot and find clever ways to kill others. There’s a good chunk of the film where he’s not doing that. Halle Berry’s extended cameo wasn’t necessary to move the film along, though she does get a few good scenes fighting with her German Shepherds. I can forgive the slug of the middle of the film because “Parabellum” finishes up with a bang.
“John Wick 3” is an enjoyable entry into the franchise. But to be honest, the film’s end has me far more excited for a possible fourth film in the franchise that would see Reeves directly team back up with his “Matrix” costar Laurence Fishburne. Who doesn’t want to see that?
Watch a trailer for “John Wick: Chapter 3” below.