Why do we go to “John Wick” movies? Taking the critical, fan and box office success of the first two entries into consideration, it’s because of the masterfully choreographed fights, the gunplay, the otherworldly atmosphere, the dark humor, and dog-loving, martial arts-practicing, black suit-wearing, heartbroken Keanu Reeves. Well, OK, for his character, the former best assassin in the world, John Wick.
All of that is again on display in the third film of the trilogy, “John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum” (the Latin phrase meaning “prepare for war”). But along with it are direct references to the previous films, hints about some of Wick’s past, revelations regarding characters we’ve come to wonder about, new characters - none of whom you would want to cross - bigger, crazier stuntwork, and some educational information with which you could liven up any cocktail party.
There will no doubt be a few fans with a few negative remarks, but their complaints won’t have much to stand on. Let’s go with those first.
Discrepancies: This film picks up a few minutes after “Chapter 2” ends. Wick and his nameless dog were running through Central Park at 5 p.m. on a sunny day that’s turning to dusk, with Wick knowing he has exactly one hour before an open contract on his life goes into effect. “Chapter 3” opens at 5:10, and it’s pitch dark and pouring. I didn’t care.
Borrowing from other films: Wick rides a horse through the New York streets. Arnold Schwarzenegger rode a horse through a Los Angeles hotel in “True Lies.” Wick uses a horse as a weapon. The Three Stooges used a mule as a weapon, in a similar manner, in “Grips, Grunts and Groans.” I consider those to be homages.
Now, on to what fans will love about this film.
We learn that Wick had been retired for five years before regretfully coming back into the organizational fold. We get to see a more darkly comic side of Continental Hotel manager Winston (Ian McShane). We find out just what the mysterious concierge Charon (Lance Reddick) is capable of, especially when he has an enormous gun and plenty of ammo in his possession. Once the open contract goes into effect, it becomes a chase film, with a soundtrack that combines glorious Vivaldi music with a pounding Tyler Bates/Joel J. Richard score. There’s a new villainess; just call her The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon). If you look up her title in the dictionary, that will be part of the film’s educational offerings, as you probably don’t know what that word means. While you’re at it, also look up “deconsecrate,” as it’s a word she likes to toss about, and the noun “parlay,” which other characters use.
As in previous Wick films, Wick gets hit by a car or two, someone eventually says, “Be seeing you,” the Bowery King (Lawrence Fishburne) has a prominent role, and the fights ... ahh, the fights. Fists and feet are flying on the floors of a small museum - a knife museum, no less - that has innumerable glass cases containing uncountable objects on display, all used to impressive effect. There’s a martial arts master of an adversary named Zero (Mark Dacascos), with minions of his ninja students, all after a certain guy in a black suit, all potentially lethal. (It’s during one of their spectacular fights that you have to wonder what the budget for smashing glass was on this film.) There’s a mysterious woman called The Director (Anjelica Huston), who knows Wick, and a mysterious woman named Sofia (Halle Berry) who not only knows Wick, but can match his every martial arts and armament move. Bonus: She has a couple of very well-trained Belgian Malinois dogs, and in Wick world, dogs make even better weapons than horses.
Within all of the outstanding and outlandish elements of the film, the main plotline asks if there’s a way out of this jam for John Wick, if it’s possible to call off the contract on his life. That won’t be answered here. But that’s fine, because there’s no way this thing is going to end as just a trilogy.
Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at email@example.com.
“John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum”
Written by Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, Marc Abrams; directed by Chad Stahelski
With Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Mark Dacascos