There is no current cinematic franchise that indulges in violence quite like the “John Wick” films do.
The brand is built on the titular hero (played by Keanu Reeves) punching, slicing, gouging eyes and shooting his way through hundreds of fellow assassins.
Treating those action sequences like macabre, clunky ballets of bullets, knives and fists, the first two “John Wick” films felt like a return to the days of directors like John Woo.
Within 20 minutes of it starting, “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum” feels like that too. Wick bashes one assassin’s head in with a Russian poetry book and tears through a group of Asian mercenaries using only knives and glass in the aisle of a weapons store. It’s thrilling, gross and oddly gorgeous — all of the reasons why this franchise continues to exist.
At this point, director Chad Stahelski, a former stuntman who helmed the previous two films, knows what works. With “Chapter 3,” it’s a continuation of maximum violence, hammy acting and minimal, if any, emotion.
Taking place directly after “Chapter 2,” Wick is on the run on the rain-drenched streets of New York City. After killing another assassin on the hallowed grounds of The Continental, Wick has a $14 million bounty put on his head. He upset his anonymous group of crime bosses, known as The High Table, and has to pay.
Since “Wick’s” version of The Big Apple is crawling with blood-thirsty, money-grubbing hitmen, everybody is coming after him for a piece of that contract. And most end up with a series of bullets in their heads.
Stuck in a game of cat and mouse with thousands of killers, Wick digs into his past with people who owe him a favor, which includes hard-boiled characters played by actresses including Anjelica Huston and Halle Berry, with hopes they’ll get him to safety. Each is dealing with their own problems, as The High Table has activated its rule enforcer, The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon in a confident, star-making performance) to take down everyone who has helped Wick.
While the “Wick” series has never bothered with any type of emotional stakes beyond the death of Wick’s dog in the first movie, its love for spending time in this neo-noir underworld of morally gray characters, like the well-spoken Winston (Ian McShane) and the welcoming hotel concierge Charon (Lance Reddick), before moving on to the next big fight has given it depth and dark humor.
But at 2 hours and 11 minutes, there are only so many fights the audience can endure before it gets exhausting. Where the previous two films felt like lean, slick action showcases, this gets a little too long in the tooth by the final act, not knowing to quit while it’s ahead.
While it overstays its welcome, “Chapter 3” is the funniest, most confident and over-the-top entry in the franchise. It does everything it’s known for so well that you appreciate a franchise like this still exists.
— Andrew Gaug | News-Press NOW