"If victory favors me, I will protect your child with my life."

"I ask you not to worry about that possibility. Because my son and I live on the Demon Way in Hell, we're prepared to descend into Hell through the Six Realms and Four Lives."

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

I don’t want to raise anyone’s expectations too high. I know some are saying JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3: PARABELLUM is fun but lesser, and that could very well end up being the conventional wisdom. In my mind, though, it’s more than that. It’s an outstanding achievement, a new action classic that outdoes the excellent CHAPTER 2 in both garish spectacle and elaboration on the strange mythology of this secret world of elite assassins.

Like all JOHN WICK movies, it’s full of things you never knew you needed to see, things that are ludicrous, but treated with knowing seriousness, increasing their level of awesomeness. For example, you know that cliche where a character you like gets shot and drops to the ground and you have to wait and hope for the reveal that they were saved by a bullet proof vest? That happens with a dog.

And what about John Wick walking through a desert, but dressed like John Wick? If James Bond goes out into the desert – hell, even if Batman does – he wears different gear. But there is no Desert Action John Wick. When he treks through Moroccan sand dunes he wears the same suit and tie we just saw him wearing in a New York downpour. I suppose maybe he cancelled his debit card when he came back and doesn’t know how to buy new clothes without access to his usual services. But I think it’s more because he’s an icon. That’s his uniform. That’s John Wick. And because director Chad Stahelski knows it’s surreal to see this guy in drastically different settings across the world without changing his blood-stained clothes.

I love the rollercoaster structure of this thing. It picks up just after the end of 2, with the rare scared John Wick (Keanu Reeves, STREET KINGS) running down a rainy New York City street, having been declared “excommunicado” for killing in the neutral zone of the Continental Hotel, and given an hour head start before every killer in town (which seems to be pretty much ever person in town) comes after the $14 million bounty on his head. The tattooed switchboard operators count it down, the people on the streets eye their watches, and John Wick – untitled dog at his side, off-leash – desperately tries to enact his escape plan before the small hand hits the six. Even before it does, he runs into a couple cheaters and CHAPTER 3 fires itself like a cannonball into a stretch of incredible action sequences sustained enough to have me wondering if this was it, it was just gonna be hurtling down fury road until the end credits.

Then screenwriter Derek Kolstad (THE PACKAGE) – this time credited alongside Shay Hatten (ARMY OF THE DEAD) and Chris Collins (The Wire, Star Wars: The Clone Wars) & Marc Abrams (The Bernie Mac Show) – begins a gradual morph from spectacle to procedural to fable. After the GAME OF DEATH style fight with a giant (76er Boban Marjanovic), the hilarious and inventive multiple knife fight, and the insane horse vs. motorcycle battle, it stops to take a breath – a long breath that delves further into the JOHN WICK world, introducing “The Adjudicator” (Asia Kate Dillon, Orange is the New Black, Billions). She’s sort of like the hated regional manager who swoops into town representing The High Table and dropping the hammer on anybody who did any favors for John Wick, including hotel manager Winston (Ian McShane, DEATH RACE) and lord of the homeless assassins Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne, CHERRY 2000). So we get to see some (not all) of the previously established cast of characters, with a little extra shine for the beloved concierge Charon (Lance Reddick, JONAH HEX). We also learn about a new faction of the underworld and yet another tantalizing chapter of John Wick’s old days as he plays all his emergency cards and begins a literal journey to his last hope, located at a figurative crossroads at the edge of mortality.

There are several very different sections within this chapter, one of the best being when John Wick collects a favor from old, not-happy-to-see-him friend Sofia (Halle Berry, THE FLINTSTONES). The way they paint themselves into a corner and the way they get out offer more excitement than many whole movies do. It’s a thrill just to see Berry be so cool, let alone perform complex gun-fu long-takes that were unimaginable for a Best Actress winner pre-Charlize. And this is truly a type of action sequence I’ve never seen before: a complex shootout with two attack dogs in the thick of it mauling motherfuckers. It goes on for a while and it never gets old.

It’s such an invigorating breath of fresh air to see a theatrically released American action movie by filmmakers clearly aware of and trying to be competitive with the state-of-the-art in international action filmatism. You could definitely fault them for being too derivative of the astonishing motorcycle chase/sword fight in THE VILLAINESS, but they sure come close to matching it. And the Indonesian wave of THE RAID and THE NIGHT COMES FOR US certainly seems to have influenced the relentless onslaught of headshots, stabbings and slashings. They cast THE RAID 2‘s Cecep Arif Rahman and Yayan “Mad Dog” Ruhian not just as cameos, but as the showstopping big brawl before John Wick faces the top guy.

That top guy, credited as “Zero” but unnamed in the movie, is a sushi chef/master ninja played by the great Mark Dacascos (ONLY THE STRONG, CRYING FREEMAN, DRIVE). I’ve been paying tribute to his career all week in anticipation, but I really didn’t know which way this would go – more often than not these exciting returns of our genre icons end up being underwhelming. To the contrary, this scene-stealing villain is unquestionably a career highlight for Dacascos. He has an effective build up, an aura of menace and is the first lead villain to pose a serious martial arts challenge to John Wick. He also gets some of the biggest laughs in the movie. (This is definitely the funniest of the series so far.) It’s so cool to see a movie that exalts this great worker of b-movies and TV guest appearances right next to Hollywood’s action Buddha, he who was born of POINT BREAK and SPEED, evolved through THE MATRIX, given flight through JOHN WICK and MAN OF TAI CHI. While Reeves was doing his Francis Ford Coppola movie, Dacascos was doing a Sam Firstenberg. While Reeves did a Bernardo Bertolucci, Dacascos did a Sheldon Lettich. But they’re treated as peers in this movie directed by Chad Stahelski, a guy who was in the Jeff Wincott DTV classic MISSION OF JUSTICE, but uses a theater marquee as his chance to reference Andrei Tarkovsky.

You may remember that Stahelski’s JOHN WICK chapter 1 co-director David Leitch had a much bigger nod to the Russian master of “slow cinema” in ATOMIC BLONDE, staging a fight behind a screen showing STALKER. In fact, a fight between an Academy Award winning actress and the star of the BLOODSPORT sequels! (Note: Stahelski played “Max Omega” in BLOODSPORT III.) It makes sense that that these veteran stuntmen push the envelope so hard on the action sequences that the envelope breaks through a window, falls onto the windshield of a car and causes the car to swerve into a building and explode. And let’s face it, that would be enough for me. Yet both directors also go beyond the call of duty in conjuring sumptuous colors, dreamy atmosphere, and strong acting performances that ground operatic characters in a recognizable humanity. Most action sequels don’t have a cinematographer (Dan Laustsen) known for his work with Ole Bornedal, Christophe Gans and Guillermo Del Toro. Stahelski and Leitch, like Reeves himself, are a miraculously unlikely combination of talents and interests, a dream come true, a gift to the world.

There’s a meta kick to seeing Reeves work not only with his stunt double as director, but with players from his previous works. Along with ol’ Morpheus we also get the return of The Doctor played by MATRIX RELOADED keymaster Randall Duk Kim, and there’s a fight with Tiger Chen, who Reeves met on RELOADED and then directed and fought in MAN OF TAI CHI. And so much of the movie is pure Keanu, from the distinct lanky movements of the fights to the weird bits of humor. I don’t know if anyone else will make this connection, but there’s a good joke that involves sitting on a couch that’s reminiscent of a funny bit he does in KNOCK KNOCK.

I wouldn’t say there’s fan service, but there are possible allusions to action movie history. The introduction of Zero echoes Sonny Chiba’s entrance in KILL BILL VOLUME 2, there’s an odd but unmistakable nod to ROCKY, and the finale is staged in a high tech one-upping of the ENTER THE DRAGON mirror maze, a confounding chamber with layers of glass that are sometimes reflective, not always visible, and look and sound super cool whenever a blade crunches or scrapes them. (This is also an elaboration on CHAPTER 2’s art museum fight, adding even trippier video screen backdrops and an endless supply of glass display cases for John Wick to be thrown through.)

The bar for excitement is set so high so early that as the last act approached I got seriously nervous it might pull a HUNGER GAMES 2 and suddenly cut it off before the anticipated payoff. If anything I should’ve worried about it going too far – so many motorcycle-helmeted heads get exploded like watermelons that a few times I had to wonder if it’s bad to have so much fun with this in a society so plagued by real life gun worship. There are honestly only two minor spots where I felt they might’ve dropped a very small ball. One, the fight that passes vats of molten metal without ever dipping a motherfucker into one. Two, the buildup to a high ranking new character who seems ripe for the casting of an icon (like Franco Nero in 2) and then turns out to be… a guy who looks kind of familiar. But Saïd Taghmaoui was in LA HAINE and a bunch of David O. Russell movies, so maybe he’s exciting to somebody. All is forgiven.

As ridiculously fun as the violence is in this series, and as opulently as its practitioners live, their lifestyle is one without love or happiness. One of John Wick’s apparent mentors, The Director (Anjelica Huston, CAPTAIN EO) believes that life and art are misery. He comes from a people who are divided by gender – the women are skeletal, and practice ballet until their toenails fall off, the men have beefy upside down triangle torsos and wrestle each other all day. At some point, though, they make a devil’s bargain to become killers who wear expensive clothes and live in luxurious suites but can never have families. His friend and peer Sofia’s life is centered on the belief that she can never see her daughter because it would get her killed, and that crushes her. These characters live by the rules of the High Table, and when they break the rules for a friendship, things get even worse for them. (IMPLIED ENDING SPOILERS COMING UP) The person who comes out on top in this one does it through betrayal. And to fight back in chapter 4, John Wick has to align himself with the people who willingly give up most luxury and modern technology and don’t believe in the rules. We’ll see how much they really believe in honoring personal relationships.

Things I’m now hoping John Wick will be able to get back in the future: 1. His car. 2. His wedding ring.

Whatever happens with all that, I’m not actually rooting for John Wick to get this shit straightened out right away. Based on the strength of this chapter, I hope it ends up being a really long book.

This entry was posted on Friday, May 17th, 2019 at 5:40 pm and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

81 Responses to “John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum”

  1. I know I’ve made the same comment in other posts, but during the “Skyscraper” discussion when people were defending The Rock’s shitty choices in films, it was along the lines of “Well even if The Rock wanted to make the kind of movies we want to see him in, Hollywood just doesn’t make those anymore.”

    Yet here we are with the third entry in a franchise that began with a super violent non-4-quadrant film starring Keanu Reeves, not exactly at a career high point, and opening to less than $15 million in mid-Oct. And nearly five years later that third entry apparently may make between $40-60 million on a weekend in May, so apparently there is a market for these kind of movies after all.

  2. Also let’s note that not only is a Lionsgate movie making so much money in actual theaters as opposed to the usual VOD, but that “John Wick 3” assumes that everyone watching has already seen the previous two movies and thus need no hand-holding to get them up to speed, which you normally only see in Marvel sequels.

  3. I’ll say one more thing, you mentioned how things in this movie that are ostensibly ludicrous are treated with utmost seriousness. A friend who I watched this with noted that there only the occasional obvious “comic relief” joke moments in the film. That’s because an excellent action sequence or an awesome kill is a relieving moment themselves, so if you have those you don’t need to overload your film with constant “comic relief” like a Michael Bay or Marvel movie night do.

    Also, while a lot of reviewers are seeing an allegory here for fame in that Wick is a Keanu-level star that everyone recognizes and wants to be next to in some way, even if that means killing him, I felt that maybe the doctor at the beginning, played by the Keymaster from Matrix Reloaded like you noted, was supposed to be a stand-in for a screenwriter during a writer’s strike in that he has to immediately stop working on Wick when the time is up but he can sort of give him suggestions as an advisor.

  4. Who is saying fun but lessor? Can I kick those assholes in the balls? This is why we can’t have nice things. Fun but lesser….

  5. Saw this just now with a very enthusiastic crowd, and loved every minute. Boban was a great treat as a big NBA fan.
    I thought Dascascos was excellent throughout- his weirdo character deserves a prequel. Also shouted out loud when I recognized Mad Dog.

    I will just keep hoping that this franchise goes Bond deep, with 20+ entries.

  6. Sternshein – I mean they liked 2 better. I don’t agree at all, but I’m not gonna get mad at them.

  7. BTW, The Adjudicator isn’t a she. The actor and the character are non binary.

    I also was afraid they were going to do that thing where Wick pulls out a gun and kills Zero befire they fight. Kind of like the ending to Desperado where they think we don’t want more action sequences but they totally have the fight. I fucking love this movie.

  8. Larry Sternshein

    May 17th, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    Having seen all three back to back to back in the thester, I can confirm those people are wrong. Two is the least of the 3 by far.

  9. We can only pray that David Leitch will break The Rock curse.

    The dogs fight scene impressed the most. This movie is bigger and broader in about every way from this first two and it’s great. What was up with that Morocco and Elder shit though? (And seems like Winston wasn’t the only dude breaking his word/committing betrayal…which seemed thematically odd but I’m still on a high from finishing the movie and don’t have deep thoughts on it atm.)

  10. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 17th, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    Saw this last night, loved it as well. You can tell these guys know action just by seeing who they cast as the final three bosses! The whole climax was amazing, although I think my favorite sequence in the film has to be the knife fight at the beginning. Hilarious and exhilarating at the same time.

    Btw, Tiger Chen was in this as well? I totally missed him, where did he pop up?

  11. (TIGER CHEN SPOILER) He was the first guy to say “That’s him!” at the beginning, and then he got stabbed in the eyeball at the end of the knife fight.

  12. Missed opportunity to cast either The Architect or Agent Smith as the mysterious guy in the desert.

    I guess having the guy who played the Shadow King in Legion was OK but I didn’t know it was him until I saw his name in the credits.

  13. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 18th, 2019 at 12:34 am

    Thanks, will have to pay more attention next time I watch it. Maybe he was less recognizable to me without a dorky haircut!

  14. Oh wait, my mistake. He was the guy who had the role of the Shadow King in Legion before mysteriously leaving the role abruptly after being cast.

  15. Brian B, about Winston’s betrayal, there may be more to it than it seems. Winston knows John is wearing a bulletproof suit, yet he clearly aims for John’s torso-the area covered by armor. Then before he goes to meet the adjudicator to parley, he asks Charon “is everyone in place?” without it being clear who he was referring to. There were no other guards or personnel at the meeting or anything. Did he possibly have it arranged to have the homeless pick up man waiting? He didn’t seem at all surprised that Wick was gone, it came across to me as if he was outright expecting it. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I dunno, I’m not sure that Winston’s betrayal was entirely a betrayal.

  16. Had a blast with this. Best of the series for me.

    I really don’t care for Hallie Berry’s character though. Also gun fights are not that much fun when your main protagonists have magic cheat code aim.

  17. I can’t wait to watch this. It doesn’t premiere in my country before May 31st. Maybe it has something to do with yesterday was my countries Constitution day. I’m not even sure if this will be shown in my local theatre, as I don’t think Chapter 2 was (or the first one for that matter).

    This review explains why Saïd Taghmaoui had his own character poster. Also for Game of Thrones fans, Bronn is in it, and this is the third time Dan Laustsen is a DP on a Mark Dacascos film. Of course, Laustsen did Brotherhood of the Wolf, but he also did a film called Nomad: The Warrior, a historical epic set in Kazakhstan. Starring two Latin Americans (Kuno Becker and Jay Hernandez), and Jason Scott Lee and Dacascos. I have owned this film for years on Blu-ray, but never watch it, because it’s probably not very good. It also happens to be the only Dacascos film I own on blu-ray, which is a shame.

  18. All heroes in gun fights have the cheat code.

  19. NYtimes has a video of the Wick vs the Raid 2 guys with commentary. Worth a look. They have done this before with a scene from The Raid 2, and a scene from Atomic Blonde.

    Watch Keanu Reeves Fight Ninjas in ‘John Wick: Chapter 3’

    The director Chad Stahelski discusses how an extended action sequence came together.

  20. We also got FIENDISH DR. WU (Roger Yuan) as the leader of the killers in the knife fight scene. Loved how Zero is seemingly more interested in getting John’s respect/recognition than killing him, but John’s reaction is a mix of indifference and bemusement. Fantastic escalation of the series.
    Does anyone else think they might be considering spinning out some things from this? They’re already supposed to be developing a Continental TV show, but the focus on Sofia and her story seems ripe for a spinoff.

  21. I had a read a few reviews that were positive, but also said that the action became exhausting and somewhat repetitive, but that was not my experience. I really thought this was superb on nearly every level. I rewatched the first two movies the night before I saw Chapter 3, and I still think the first film is something really special, even if it is more paired down than the sequels. And Chapter 2 is so good that I can see why some might prefer it over the third film, but if people are using the first two movies to put down the third, then I don’t know where they’re coming from. I’m just impressed that they keep on coming up with ways to vary the action and to one up themselves. They also expand on the world of John Wick while also keeping plenty hidden. We might learn a little something about how the high table works, but we know little about Halle Berry’s daughter.

    One thing I didn’t quite get is why the adjudicator went after Larry Fishburne’s character. Winston clearly dragged his feet when declaring Wick excommunicado, but Fishburne simply chose not to go after the bounty on Wick’s head (and gave him a gun, I guess). It doesn’t seem like he broke or even bent any rules, like Winston.

  22. The first act is an all-timer. The second act is phenomenal. The third act is just kinda great, and somehow that feels disappointing. That’s how high the bar is on these things. Peter Berg would throw his mom out of a fourth-floor walk-up in Southie onto a pile of burning American flags if he thought the sacrifice would grant him the skills to film an action climax half as good as this one.

    The knife fight is amazing. I laughed and I clapped. The timing, the pacing, the deadpan viciousness. Biggest smile I’ve had in weeks. The horse vs motorcycle stuff. Awesome. The whole opening Escape From New York gauntlet was delightful. Like Vern, I wondered if this would be the whole movie, and if it was I wouldn’t have complained.

    (As a New Yorker At Large, I appreciated that, right as I was wondering what the fuck John was doing on a bridge when he’s just trying to get to the Financial District from Grand Central, they do that shot of John turning his bike around and going right back the way he came. Totally unnecessary [if not outright confusing] for 99% of the audience but I appreciate that they took our suspension of disbelief seriously enough to do something about it.)

    The movie gets a lot less breathless and a bit more traditional when it gets to Morocco, but who gives a shit when there are a couple of charmers like those two German Shepherds around? It’s not only, by leaps and bounds, the most incredible dog training ever captured on film, but it’s thematically appropriate. PARABELLUM becomes the MS. 45 to the original’s DEATH WISH by allowing the previously objectified, hero-motivating victims (brutalized dogs) become the agents of their own revenge. I haven’t seen this many nutsacs savaged since the heyday of Weng Weng. Halle was great as well. Weird that it took three movies to utilize the simple concept of giving John an ally in an action set-piece. I thought her presence added a whole other level of complexity to what could have been just another John Wick shootout. I could have watched that scene all day.

    Then he gets back to New York and it all gets a little less impressive. (Though his return did have one of my favorite little moments, when Dacascos’ team just fucking demolishes the rival assassins in Grand Central. In action movie language, that part was very clearly saying “You know those random chumps John dispatches by the dozen? These are not those chumps.”) It doesn’t really feel like the ante gets upped that much, though. The body armor was a great idea but it ended up making a lot of the action repetitive in the same way I though Chapter Two’s “Hip toss, head shot, reload, repeat” pattern got a bit repetitive. But sadly, I think the main problem was Dacascos. It’s cool that he’s in it and has a quirky character to play, but I just don’t think his character works. He seemed like someone Bobby Moynihan might play in KILLING GUNTHER or something. The reveal that this stoic assassin is really just a J-Dubz stan was good for one (1) laugh but then it deflated all of the menace from that character, which took a lot of the excitement out of the final fight. I thought the Raidsters did a much more entertaining and organic variation on the “surprisingly genial admirer of the hero still wants to kill him” idea. I just wish they’d gone another way with him. He’s easily my least favorite character in the Wickiverse. What a disappointing conclusion to Dacascos Week.

    And are we still doing the “We’re the same, you and me” thing? Can we not? For a movie so thoughtful in so many other ways, it seemed particularly uncreative. Maybe that’s the joke, that John has dealt with wannabes like this first for years and he doesn’t even have the energy to address it anymore, but it didn’t really do anything for me.

    But shit. I’d have to be even more of a joyless asshole than I am to complain about a film of this caliber. That final fall alone is worth an award. For some reason, I thought this one was going to be a trilogy capper, not just a part three, so I’m happy that at least one more will be forthcoming, in which they will finally take my suggestion and have John forced to sit at the head of the High Table because he murdered everyone else.

    This one does, however, make me less excited for that TV show set “in the world of JOHN WICK.” This movie shows us that “the world of JOHN WICK” is about to be torn the fuck apart, and with good reason, so how are we gonna watch a whole show about the status quo? More and more it seems like the most interesting part about John’s world is watching him navigate it, both physically and spiritually. The gold coins and tattooed dispatchers are fun window-dressing but I can’t see any of the mythology having much resonance when not filtered through Keanu’s warrior-poet melancholy. It’s the story of a pilgrim’s violent search for enlightenment, which is ill-suited for the “nonstop subplots and cliffhangers” template of modern TV. I can see it getting very LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN without Keanu around keeping it grounded.

  23. Some thoughts.

    I loved it and felt a little bad for loving a movie that so gleefully shaves heads from necks with very large shot guns.

    When I saw 2 I hadn’t seen 1 and I think, really, you can kind of jump in wherever, get a handle on things, and take it from there.

    This. 100 percent this. My thoughts exactly.

    “There are honestly only two minor spots where I felt they might’ve dropped a very small ball. One, the fight that passes vats of molten metal without ever dipping a motherfucker into one.”

  24. I knew while watching the film that the ‘Elder’ wouldn’t be some jaw-dropping cameo for Action Nuts, because I would have heard about it already, and I realized they’d probably want to keep his ethnicity to match the broad location.

    But you know who would have been the ultimate old-school action actor for that role? Amitabh Bachchan.

  25. RBatty024- “One thing I didn’t quite get is why the adjudicator went after Larry Fishburne’s character. Winston clearly dragged his feet when declaring Wick excommunicado, but Fishburne simply chose not to go after the bounty on Wick’s head (and gave him a gun, I guess). It doesn’t seem like he broke or even bent any rules, like Winston.”
    Bowery King gave Wick the gun knowing he intended to use it to kill a member of the High Table, because John convinced him that Santino would be bad for the King’s business. The Adjudicator either figured that out, or was tipped off about it and saw it as an act of treason to the High Table. I will admit I’m a little less clear on how Santino could obviously send John to kill his sister so he could take her place at the High Table and get away with it, but I guess maybe in that world, doing it that way is seen as enterprising.

  26. Also, the very best Easter egg: John has to find salvation by following Sirius, a.k.a. the Dog Star. Most might assume this is merely an allusion to the franchise’s origins as a canine-based revenge potboiler, but they’re forgetting Keanu’s sideline as a bassist.

    I love the Reevestrospective aspect to these movies. I hope they go even deeper. Shit, now that I think about it, you know who should have been The Elder?

    At first I was thinking it should be Carrie-Anne Moss. But Hollywood is hard enough on older actresses without saddling her with that moniker.

    So you know who it should really be? Alex Winter.

    Don’t front. You know I’m right.

    Like, that idea is so good they should just special edition him over the guy from THREE KINGS for the Blu-ray. If that actor is reading this, sorry, dude, you did a good job but you have to know in your heart that you’re not the guy. Bill S. Preston Esquire is the guy. You probably felt him haunting you like ghost Bill & Ted the whole time you were shooting that scene.

  27. Also, congratulations to the filmmakers for finally finding the proper use for Jason Mantzoukas: playing a cackling homeless guy in an alley with a crazy beard and three lines.

  28. Expanding on what I said earlier, I would have liked it the Elder was one person on their own (no tent or anythi ng either, they were just suddenly there) and whether it was The Architect or Hugo Weaving, they were dressed just like their character from the Matrix Trilogy.

  29. DShiflet: I also thought Winston’s betrayal was ambiguous, for all the reasons you mentioned plus I think if it was a real betrayal Charon might have had more if a reaction. But I mostly see people taking it at face value so maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part.
    R
    Mr. Majestyk: Agree completely with your breakdown of the three acts, though I liked Zero more than you did. For me the High Table raid on the Continental was the only less than amazing set piece in the film, and for exactly the reasons you laid out. The two-on-one and one-on-one fights that follow are worth the wait but the raid itself was an unfortunate de-escalation of momentum just when it seemed all hell was going to break loose at yet-unseen levels.

  30. Larry Sternshein

    May 18th, 2019 at 9:11 am

    As a whole, this is the greatest action movie ever made of you look at all three as a continuation of each other. I just think you guys should be flipping your lid at this movie more.

  31. Also, great podcast with Chad Stahelski on the Ringer. Really gets at what makes these films so special.

    Making ‘John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum’ With Chad Stahelski, and Watching It With Shea Serrano

    Chad Stahelski, the mind behind John Wick, joins the show to discuss some of the unique difficulties of shooting one of the most action-packed franchises in Hollywood

  32. I loved the little display of chivalry in Wick letting Zero’s two acolytes live after their fight. As grim and gritty as these movies, they never lose sight of those tiny glimpses of humanity in John (like sparing Kevin Nash in the first one) and they make John Wick way more appealing than if he were just 100% a killing machine, while never being schmaltzy in the traditional action movie way (“Aw, look, he put a blanket on her while she slept.”).

  33. The action in this – and all the elements on the production side you need to go well to make the action really shine – is so good that criticising any aspect of this film feels churlish.

    But I do have some reservations – or just things I wish were a little different – that stopped me loving this like I should. I love that an ongoing, modern-day action series actually has a mythology but some of the actual choices left me confused. It felt like the earlier films showed the assassins as everywhere but still, like, sneaky assassins. It feels like someone punched in some cheat codes between chapters because now nothing anyone does seems to generate any attention. Civilians don’t hear gunshots, they don’t notice knife fights a foot away from them. I didn’t get what they were going for with that. The element of subterfuge – and the clever framing that sustained it – has fallen away. I think that is a shame, because it was part of what was so impressive about the earlier films – and also fit with Wick and the assassins choices in having such clean and precise fighting styles.

    [Spoiler ahead] John surviving that fall at the end also bugged me. The glory of 1 and 2 was in how they managed to string ludicrous sequences out of action beats that, blow-by-blow, felt credible and plausible. The sequences overall would be insane but Keanu and the crew managed to sell every single frame – like almost nothing I’d ever seen. They were only able to sustain that illusion by, like, being amazing at staging, performing and shooting action. I think on a technical level 3 breaks new ground, but having John brush off shit like he’s Captain America – things that’d be an instant kill – seems like a step back from part of what make the more technically modest achievements of 1 and 2 shine. It really did feel like playing a great video game but with cheat codes enabled. Yeah the animation and graphics and design and all that is good, but, i dunno, the sense of challenge is important too.

    My other big concern is, like, the script. The dialogue’s a little rougher. I think the idea of each film picking up moments after the last is neat in theory but also limiting – because the emotional stakes and throughline that 1 had has kind of evaporated and hasn’t been refreshed. They chuck in dialogue saying he’s fighting in the hope of one day living to remember his wife, and I’m a bit.. ‘hmmm’ on that. It is thin. Someone needs to sit down and work out where the character’s going. Gonna sound basic and ungrateful here but i dunno, make John Wick go and have to protect someone’s baby or something, i love shit like that. Picking up right from where the last one ended has left it feeling like they’re running on fumes a bit, cos the emotional stakes haven’t been refreshed since act 1 of the original John Wick.

    I reckon this was compounded by this one not having a proper bad guy, with motivations or anything. On paper I like the idea of it being one man v the bureaucracy, and it might pay off in 4, but dare I say it Dacascos could’ve been done better by. I mean, it’s an amazing showcase for him, he deserves his dues. But the character is paper thin – a bit too meta, kinda unconvincing – in the way the antagonists of 1 and 2 were not.

    Ah man. I feel like a dick. It builds on and advances on 1 and 2 in so many ways – two of the greatest western action movies ever. But they hang too much on what was originally supposed to be fancy set dressing in part 1. It feels like character and plausible motivation and all that was put on the backburner so they could show us why we’re meant to care about The Continental so much, in time for the TV show. I dunno, the more they show of all that – and i appreciate the campiness and grandiosity of it all – the less interesting it seems.

    I think a lot of these issues will evaporate on second viewing. But I hope for part 4 they find a way to throw a bit of Hard Boiled in there.

  34. Maybe I’m just being dense, but I’m drawing a blank on what the Rocky reference in the movie is.

  35. @DShiflet & BR: I read Winston’s move more the other way as expedient betrayal. But I can see the possible ambiguity. Good points. Mostly, I’m hoping the next movie will unpack more why Wick went back on his word and finger sacrifice. Before the final setpieces, he essentially ends up in a very similar situation to how both Angelica Huston’s and Halle Berry’s characters were positioned, but he refused to honor what he personally/blood swore to as well as the group’s rules.

  36. Only John Wick qualifies for a Friday Vern review and I’m so glad. I couldn’t have waited til Monday for this.

    So is this the best damn thing you’ve seen lately or is it way beyond that?

  37. Steven, I don’t agree with anythig you said but it was said so well that I respect it.

  38. Stu, I haven’t seen the film yet, but I looked up the soundtrack listening on IMDB, and the name Frank Stallone showed up. So maybe that is the reference, a song by his brother?

  39. Stu – I kind of got that, but is a gun with seven bullets that big of a deal? And like you said, Santiago did the same thing. Does the adjudicator not know that he murdered his sister? Ultimately, it’s not a big deal. But it did take me out of the movie for a second.

    I’m genuinely surprised by the negativity surrounding Dacascos’s character, who I though was an absolute blast. In a world where John Wick is a legend, it makes sense that there would be a few fanboys. And I should also mention that I was pumped when I first heard that Halle Berry was going to be in this movie, and I was excited to see her given a really standout action setpiece. I don’t think she gets enough credit as someone, like Keanu, who will do whatever the film asks of her.

    My one other nitpick is that all those random dudes working for Winston at the end died too quickly. I really thought we were going into Assault on Precinct 13 territory, but in just a couple of minutes we’re down to Wick and Charon.

  40. RBatty: The premise of Dacascos’ character isn’t a bad idea on paper, but I don’t think it did the movie any favors. I think it hurt the climax to make the primary physical threat a comic relief character. If they’d built him up as a legendary badass a little more before they started subverting it with the fanboy stuff, I think it would have been more effective. Everything else had been this impossible gauntlet, so having the boss at the end of the level be this wannabe was kind of a letdown. It’s not like previous JW end bosses were all that formidable either, but they were more intriguing characters, in my opinion. I was kind of as annoyed and unimpressed by this guy as John was. Maybe that was the point? I don’t know. I guess I just wanted a stronger opponent for the last fight, and the fact that they had cast exactly the right actor to play whoever that guy might be just makes it more disappointing that they stuck him playing this guy instead.

    These are the kind of things I don’t give a shit about after I’ve seen the movie a couple times, though. I had my minor quibbles about CHAPTER TWO, as well, and I’ve totally gotten over them.

  41. RBatty024- Well you saw that those seven bullets were plenty to put him in a position to take out all Santino’s entourage and leave him defenceless at the Continental, so it is a pretty big deal. Also, I now remember he didn’t just give him the gun, he also got him passage from the Bowery to the museum.
    Also I seem to recall Santino’s sister got the High Table spot by inheriting it from their father, so logically, he inherited it from her when she died possibly, and there might be different rules at that level. Also, Santino joining the High Table filled a power vacuum and kept things in order, whereas John killing Santino probably left a structural mess in the organisation that’s maybe costing them, and John needs to be made an example of because of that.

  42. I liked Dascascos in this role. I prefer his mostly intentional comedy compared to the unintentional comedy in a similar role that we got from Common in Chapter 2.

  43. Dreadguacamole

    May 18th, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    Loved it, and thought it was a huge improvement over part two. The action is top notch, it genuinely looks great even when not much is happening, and it’s full of bizarre goofball touches and cool character moments.
    My main problem it is that.. I guess I find the Wickiverse deeply dumb. It was great as a backdrop to add color to the first movie, but I felt that in these last two it’s kind of taken place of actual storytelling. Avenging a dead puppy is way more relatable to me than navigating some ludicrous assassin bureaucracy.
    It was a huge problem for me with number two, especially; I couldn’t give a toss about whatever was happening there whenever there wasn’t any action on-screen, even though I like a lot of the characters. Guess at least now they’ve justified Laurence Fishbourne’s presence there – even if he (spoilers) barely does anything on this one either. I mean, he had a lot of screentime in number two just to… give John Wick a gun? Don’t you have vending machines in America for that?
    But I don’t want to dwell on that. All the good stuff more than makes up for the daft bits. That knife fight! And the dogs! (surely a reference to Dog Wick!) And the horses! And the adjudicator! And keeping armored opponents from being able to do stuff with the impact of your bullets! And Dacascos choice in seating arrangements! And! And!

  44. Stu – It’s kinda subtly buried in there, but there are some a capella singers on the steps in front of the library (apparently assassins), and they’re singing “Take Me Back,” the song that the a capella singers (including Frank Stallone) sing on the street in ROCKY. Fred asked Stahelski about it in an interview, and he said it was a tribute to Stallone because he’d worked with him a bunch as a stuntman.

  45. Decascos was wonderful in this movie. Eat a bag of dicks Mr M.

    I’m just kidding.

  46. Howdy folks, first time I got the urge to comment in a few …..

    Watched this with my daughter last week and we both had a blast (she was a little confused by all the back stories and ‘rules’’, not having ever watched a John wick movie before but was able to just roll with it). the clear action, frenetic urgency and genuinely funny scenes kept her and myself glued to the screen for what felt like the quickest 2 hours of our lives. (So many laughs and little shout outs, this will take a couple more viewings to take in)

    The whole first 30 minutes was epic, god tier action in a mainstream cinema release. It was like one giant slow exhale of breathe, as it reached a brief pause for some Halle character building and motivation (and more lore building and to continue the ongoing show of love for dogs)

    As for the ‘fan boy’ comments. This wasn’t the big bad (the adjudicator had that role, as the face of the high table this time) and to show that Zero wasn’t just another goon or another henchman type. The movie went to great lengths to demonstrate his ‘team of apprentices’ easily wiping out any object in their path (almost like a gun free version of John himself) and that they were a serious threat to John.

    I’m still genuinely shocked and thrilled that over 5 ish years, they can make 3 movies that fit together, like 1 ongoing story and still build you up to want more of the same. While still adding more pieces to flesh out the world and escalating the action and plot. Without you feeling worn down, or ‘numbed’ by it all.

    Most of all though, I feel that the team behind this have found an effortless looking way to build one of the greatest action series in years. Movie by movie and even though you know what you are getting with each one. They still have the skills, knowledge and passion to surprise and thrill you. (So many outstanding and sustained set pieces and moments in all the movies).

    We have people who are at the top of their game making this series of movies and it really does show and comes through in all 3 movies. This is the rarest of beasts, a series of movies so not mainstream that they have punched into the mainstream and not comprised on standard they set in the first movie (not apparent shark jumping here)

    Truly a great time for big screen action and why not every big movie needs to be an ‘event picture’

  47. Generally I loved this. It was EASILY the most violent movie I’ve ever seen, and in the Dolby theater I was in the gunshots were positively concussive, to the point that when Keanu was shotgunning people’s heads off, I was thinking I should have worn earplugs. My three tiny quibbles:

    1) At the end of 2 it was a sunny afternoon in the park; at the beginning of 3 it’s pouring rain.

    2) They *definitely* needed to dump somebody into the molten gold.

    3) Saïd Taghmaoui (though I’ve liked him in a bunch of things, including THREE KINGS and David Mamet’s SPARTAN) is too young to be playing a character called “The Elder.” Alexander Siddig would have been a much better choice for that role.

  48. I haven’t posted here yet so I’ll just say I loved it.

    Also, I think we got an upgrade by Hiroyuki Sanada dropping out and us getting Decascos. Him playing Zero as dorky fanboy was different and, for me, that was way more welcome than just another serious badass character. In fact, he was such a dork I could totally see him doing the dumb and cliched ‘we’re the same!’ speech with a straight face and thinking he was super original and menacing.

  49. Wait? People are unhappy with Decascos in this? This is why we can’t have nice things.

  50. How does everybody feel about this entry lacking the trademark “Oh?”

    I was disappointed but now I’m thinking we lost Nyquist, maybe the “Oh” can retire with him.

  51. I suppose I am in the minority, I liked this a lot, but would still rank it 3rd out of the three John Wick films. But I still loved it, so I don’t think it matters too much.

    I thought it had some pretty long swings where not much was going on, and I thought a lot of the action was pretty….. dark. I know that seems to be the new complaint nowadays, that scenes are dark and poorly lit, but I felt there were a few scenes here that I was struggling to tell what really was going on.

    Also, this isn’t a fault of the movie, but sometimes I found myself analyzing the intricacy of the shots/action and getting lost in marveling at the technical side of them film. Again, that isn’t a fault of the movie. It is so amazingly well made, that it distracted me.

    I do have to say the knife fight scene at the beginning may be my favorite scene of all three of the movies.

    And Keanu Reeves is just great.

  52. Hey, did you know Ellis from Die Hard directed the 90s comedy PCU (with Jeremy Piven and David Spade). Very underrated movie.

  53. Jeff, I’m willing to bet that was more of the problem with your theater than the movie. Where I saw it, everything was lit great and you can see everything clearly.

  54. Vern- I caught it on my third viewing today now I know what to look for.

    I also caught what has to be another nod to action history when John’s in Times Square, and there’s a Buster Keaton montage playing on the big screen.

    Also my favourite mis-reading of a title was the first time I saw the scene where he’s ambushed leading into the stable fight, I read “He’s heading for the corner” as “He’s heading of the coroner” originally.

  55. ^heading FOR the coroner. Dammit.

  56. Early in Chapter 2 you can also see a Buster Keaton film being projected onto the side of a building. I love these little intertextual moments and the fact that they’re largely unobtrusive. (I did not catch the Rocky reference initially).

    The more I think about it, the more these films are minor miracles. Apparently Chapter 3 broke box office expectations, so I’m hoping for at least three more of these movies.

    I’m a little iffy on the TV show. I genuinely love the texture and mythology of John Wick’s world, but I’m not sure how interesting that background will be without John Wick. And even after three movies, this world still feels somewhat mysterious. A TV show will be forced to explore every corner of this world.

  57. Also, Stahelski had them train for 6 months to know all the choreography, be connected to the dogs, etc. Pretty sure that ain’t happening with a TV show.

  58. I just got a promotional text, John wick 4 scheduled for 5/21/21. That’s good news. Maybe my theater was on the dark side, I will bee seeing it again anyway.

  59. Finally got to see this.

    That scene with the dogs mauling motherfuckers had me in literal tears of joy. It was so amazing, and I felt like they did a good job with the bullet proof dog vest so you could feel like “okay good, they aren’t gonna let anything happen to these dogs, so just sit back and enjoy it” (I felt the same about the horses, almost instinctively, and was glad to be right). What a great movie. I know it’ll make enough to bring us a part 4, but how do you fucking top that??

  60. The show is said to be an anthology show about the different assassins checking in and out. I love that idea to be honest

  61. If there’s one thing I’d add to an action scene, it’s I wish there was some incorporation of manure into the stable fight. Like, he throws some in a guy’s face to blind him, or the guy getting dragged gets tossed into a pile of it. Kinda of a respectful nod from the Bill and Ted star to the Back To The Future Franchise.

  62. Stu: The ripped-off toenail and gouged-out eye weren’t gross enough for you?

  63. lil heads up for my fellow Australianos on this here sight – JW3 was censored by Studio Canal prior to being submitted for classification. so the version currently screening in Australian cinemas employs an optical zoom in one scene to obscure weapon impact and resulting wound detail.

    sigh.

    also, from what i can gather, it would have been passed uncut with the desired rating anyway so that makes the whole thing doubly unfortunate.

  64. We call this move “The Iron Man” over here, based on when the German distributor cut the first IRON MAN to get a 12 rating, only to later find out that they would’ve gotten a 12 anyway, when they got the uncut version rated for the DVD release.

    JW3 passed uncut with an 18 rating last week though. Same rating as part 2, while part 1 got away with a 16.

  65. I celebrated my 40th birthday last night by going to see this and it did not disappoint!

  66. Con Grats! Wait, do you mean this has a 40 rating in Sweden?

  67. Did you guys know there is a new Brian DePalma movie coming out next weekend?

  68. Not sure I liked it. Too much mystical bullshit- too many characters that are obviously meant to be important but which we know little about, characters handing presumably precious coins to people then not saying anything, having characters called things like ‘The Adjudicator’. Thats kind of Matrix sequely rubbish.

    The fight scenes needed better music.

    Keanu looked bloated, slow(intentional maybe?) and I thought it was ridiculous that he cut his own finger off.

    And the Fanta product placement near the end was ludicrous.

  69. And the dialogue… nearly every sentence ends with MR WICK!? or JOHN/JOHN WICK. Like he’s James Bond or something.

  70. Pegs, it might as well have been. No kids to spoil the ending in sight. And an elderly couple, a woman seemingly in her eighties who could barely walk. I almost went down to ask them if they have walked into the wrong film. I kept wondering throughout the fiilm if they were traumatized at what they were seeing.I suspect seeing someone slowly puncturing a henchmans eyeball is not the sort of gratuitous violence eldery people usually approve of.

  71. Oh, and I almost lost my shit when John was putting a revolver together the way Tuco did in THE GOOD,THE BAD AND THE UGLY. That’ when you know they have made a film just for you.

  72. As a devoted matinee frequenter, it is my experience that moviegoing retirees will see ANYTHING as long as it’s cheap and early. Believe me, these nice old ladies and gents have seen worse shit in their day than a knife in the eye.

    I liked the Tuco shoutout but it seemed like a lot of work for one bullet, especially when they made a point to show all those other bullets, like, right there. Maybe that’s the joke.

  73. David, are you trolling us?

  74. Majestyk, our kind of crowd is of a different breed or at least I think so. Eldery Swedes have not grown up on gratuitous violence the same way I have.

  75. Not like anyone cares , but Swedes gets shit late.

  76. David – I liked the Fanta product placement, as it’s the most underrated of sodas and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it on screen before.

    Look, I’m not going to say I didn’t like or don’t recommend this movie. Of course I liked it, and of course I’ll tell everyone to see it in a theater. But I’d also recommend Medieval Times or a Wild West stunt show to people, and that’s what this series is rapidly approaching. I’ve heard a few reviews mentioning this series “jumping the shark” which is ludicrous, but it’s definitely moving away from the Casino Royale-groundedness of the first one and inching towards Moonraker (disclaimer: I love Casino Royale AND Moonraker, so I don’t really have a problem with this). The simple, concise concept of the first one is long gone, along with any attempt at emotional weight or resonance. Reeves knocks it out of the park in the action sequences (him and Tom Cruise are really putting all those under-50 action heroes to shame), but I couldn’t help missing stuff like that scene in the first one where he tells Viggo why the dog meant so much to him. That vulnerability and emotional nakedness (in front of his enemies during a torture scene no less!) is what makes Reeves such an interesting actor and Wick such a great character. Here we instead get lots of jokey kill gags. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t laugh at the hilarious underwater pool kill, but I also think it feels more like a gag out of Shoot Em Up. #notmyjohnwick (just kidding)

    I think my main complaint is that even though the action sequences are a clear escalation over what we’ve seen in the series (in both volume and content), the story itself doesn’t really escalate at all. The second one (which I didn’t like as much as this) added a ton of new lore – the markers/blood oaths, the high table, the excommunicado, the fact that every single person in New York is a hitman, etc…. This new one adds nothing new to the table – the entire plot is – Wick gets help from two female characters from his past who “owe him”, he goes to see the mysterious “elder” played by an actor ten years younger than Keanu, then comes back to New York to not kill the person they tell him to. Then he has two fights in a row against characters who idolize him and could kill him several times but choose not to. No major characters die, John ends the movie in the same place as he began. Hell, the only change to the “status quo” of the series is the hotel being deconsecrated and then reconsecrated about 20 minutes later. It’s the first in the series that feels like a giant wheel-spin.

    Weren’t we talking in the Blade Runner 2049 talkback about why does every action movie have to be a “revolution/resistance” movie now? I’m sorry but the last thing i really want is a John Wick vs. The High Table movie, since we’ve been given no reason to really hate The High Table (their rules are pretty much the only thing keeping this series interesting besides the action sequences). Not to mention they seem incredibly ineffective – this entire movie is scene after scene of people “breaking the rules” to help John and then not really paying the price for it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure I’ll see John Wick 4 opening weekend to see Keanu mow down 100 more faceless goons while bringing out more people from his past that owe him a favor. I’m just wishing they’d bring back a little of the flavor of the first one along with those immaculate action sequences.

  77. My saint of a wife volunteered to sit alone with our 10-day-old infant for three hours so that I could go see this today, which is just one of the reasons I love her.

    I absolutely loved this one and I wound up liking it more than PART 2. I loved how they kind of took away his super-headshot-powers at the end and he had to start jamming his gun into nooks and crannies in their armor to kill ‘em

  78. Whoops looks like half my comment got eaten, but oh well. No need for another list of “here’s what I liked about it”, but I will say that I personally read the betrayal at the end as totally genuine, if only because any plan that depends on surviving an uncontrolled fall off a good 10-15 story building is a TERRIBLE plan. My boy mcshane has to be going for the kill imo.

  79. CrustaceanLove

    May 23rd, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    Put me in the “Mark Dacascos was a delight” camp (i.e. everyone but Majestyk). I always thought he had a great comic energy that would have been wasted on yet another stoic bad-ass. His “That was a pretty great fight, right?” line got huge laughs.

    I really loved this film, I only wish the plot had made a little more sense. I liked the expanding mythology of this weirdo assassins guild, but the whole back-and-forth between John Wick, Winston and the High Table didn’t make a lick of sense to me. Halle Berry and her two Very Good Boys partake in maybe the best action sequence in the film, but it’s a scene that’s almost completely superfluous to the story. Then the whole film ends with John Wick exactly where he started.

    MIXALOT: I did notice the shameful censoring of the eye-stabbing, which seems like such an arbitrary place to draw a line since the rest of the film is so obscenely, absurdly violent.

    Majestyk: “I haven’t seen this many nutsacs savaged since the heyday of Weng Weng” is the greatest. Please write a book or something.

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