John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) Cover

Filled with more of everything audiences craved, John Wick: Chapter 3 ups the ante with the very best gore-drenched violence on the screen while walking back all the character development of Chapter 2. If you’ve already bought into this franchise and didn’t care too much for the icky feelings that the last one left you with, Chapter 3 will wipe that away with an unapologetically shallow thrill ride.

I will not split hairs. The action is better, the entertainment was better, and director Chad Stahelski has upped their game in every single capacity. What stands out as unique here over the previous chapters is a solid sense of humor and comedic timing woven into the choreography. I laughed more than I have through the entire franchise. It’s worth noting that while there is less substance here than the predecessors I enjoyed the ride more than I have thought I would, and that humor brought a sense of freshness.

Make no mistake, though, there is less substance here. Where John Wick gave us the first peek into the universe of The Continental and Chapter 2 fleshed it out deeply through the eyes of a John Wick with depth and pathos as we learn that he himself may crave the destruction he brings on himself, Chapter 3 just kind of… meanders through the stuff we already know. We get a few new characters and so many action scenes that run so long that they might as well never actually stop, but the plot walks back any character development that Wick himself had and the only new world building we get is some new characters that don’t add a whole lot.

This won’t diminish the film for most, but I was personally a little sad. Part of the charm of flicks like these is also in how rare they are… or were. I remember being completely enchanted by Shoot ‘Em Up in 2007, the first movie that captured that pure adrenaline vibe. 7 years passed before the original John Wick captured that feeling again, where there were almost more bullets than words spoken. But since 2014 there have been 3 of these, now. Walking back that character development makes it a little less special, and it was already that for being a sequel. Incremental improvements in technical proficiency and quality of film making can make up for a lot of that, but not enough.

Another element that I’ve appreciated so far has been how this series has made use of great actors to fill in every little crevice of the world. And, the first crack appears in that bit of armor, too. Several of the cameos work beautifully. Mark Dacascos is electrically entertaining opposite Keanu Reeves, Asia Kate Dillon is chilling, and I will always love every time Anjelica Huston appears anywhere. However, Halle Berry delivers a wooden performance that mostly serves to spill out exposition every time she opens her mouth, usually things we already know as an audience.

Overall, the tone shifts will mean those who liked the original may enjoy the third a little bit more, viewers who crave more meat will be disappointed by the backslide. Even still, John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum is a technical achievement that is a lot of fun to watch that could be more.

Final Verdict:A brutally technical film that lacks the depth of its predecesor.