Cast your mind back to 2014. John Wick, the retired super assassin played by Keanu Reeves, was attempting to move on after the death of his wife. Keeping him company was a puppy, sent by his wife just before she died in the hopes that the dog’s love will help ease his pain. But then came the bad men who broke into his house to steal his super nifty 1970 Mustang. Things go sideways and the thieves do the unspeakable.
They kill the dog.
Big mistake. The doggy’s daddy is a killing machine. How wicked is John Wick? “Is he the boogeyman?” asks one former associate. “He was the one we sent to kill the boogeyman.”
Thus, was set into motion the series of bloody, open-up-a-can-of-whoop-ass events that lead us to “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.”
Following “Chapter 2” which saw Wick ostracized from the exclusive world of killers-for-hire after breaking some very Old Testament style rules laid down by Winston (Ian McShane), operator of the mysterious assassin association the High Table. Now Wick has a $14 million price tag on his head and an army of international bounty-hunters on his tail.
You don’t go to “John Wick” movies for nuanced character development. You go for the kick butt-ery. “Chapter 3” delivers on the promise of action with scenes that show Wick dispatching a man using nothing but a book, stabbing somebody in the eye – that one is gruesome – and, of course shooting everyone in sight. There is so much and gunplay it’s as if they had to use up all of “Chapter 3’s” bullet budget or they wouldn’t get it again for the inevitable sequel.
These action scenes are carefully choreographed and the absence of music in the early fights emphasizes the brutality and the absurdity of the violence. But while we expect uber-violence from this franchise, we also expect consistently inventive battle scenes. There’s some of that—the action scenes involving horses and motorcycles are wild and woolly—but a long shoot-out in Casablanca is just that – a long shoot-out in Casablanca that feels plucked from a video game.
As the series moves further away from the original “dead puppy“ revenge plot of the original it is losing some of the simplicity that made the first two movies so enjoyable. The world of the High Table comes with rules of plenty but in the context of these action films less could be more. We don’t need complicated world building. This isn’t a Marvel movie, it’s a fists of fury action flick that threatens to get bogged down by details.
Having said that, “Chapter Three – Parabellum” (a Latin phrase meaning ‘prepare for war’) is still a hoot and features some of the coolest fight scenes in movies right now despite its excesses.