We find ourselves blessed to be living in a time when every few years, we get a new John Wick movie. Yeah, most things besides that fact are pretty terrible, but hey, at least we get new entries in one of the most solid and enjoyable action franchises ever created. I’ve talked about the two previous John Wick movies, and gushed about how much I love them in the past, but I’ll never pass up an opportunity to talk about what masterpieces they are. They’re gorgeously shot film, featuring some of the most stunning and shocking fight choreography that any American movies have ever had, and place all of that one one of the most exceedingly dense and fascinating lore-filled worlds I’ve ever seen. It continues to shock me that these movies aren’t based on anything, and that they’re just coming into the world whole-cloth, because they really do feel like they’re spawning from some decade’s long piece of storytelling, building on a wonderfully elaborate world and delivering all new highs. But, miraculously, this is all fresh, giving us adventures in a thrilling world, and I’ve loved every moment of them. I hope that this franchise continues for as long as it possibly can, occasionally just dishing out a new serving of amazing action and insane world-building, so of course I was going to be excited about this movie. The first film caught my attention, setting up an insane world while giving some terrific action, and the second film took all of that and ran with it, dropping even more lore into my lap, knowing that I’d adore it. I’d built up a lot of anticipation for this movie, since at least in my estimations each one of these movies has gotten better than the last. And, I wasn’t disappointing. Because this movie, as if you’re shocked, kicks a whole lot of ass.
The film picks right up where the last one left off, with John Wick fleeing for his life, a multi-million dollar bounty placed on his head, and an excommunication from all the amenities of being privy to the criminal world. But, he has one thing going for him. An hour’s head start. So, after sending his dog off to be looked after at the Continental, the hotel for criminals, John heads to the library where he finds a stash containing some money, a cross, a debt marker, and a fight with a giant. John races all around town, fleeing the forces of the criminal world who are trying to kill him and get the bounty on his head. But, as always, John is able to kill vast swaths of them, murdering his way through New York before finally reaching a woman known as the Director, a Ruska Roma who has ties to John’s past, and who is honor-bound to accept his cross and smuggle him out of the country. John decides to head to Morocco to call in the debt in his marker. It turns out that this marker belongs to a woman named Sofia, a former assassin who now operates the Casablanca Continental. She wants no part in helping John, but the Marker forces her to aid him, specifically to find a mythical figure known as the Elder, who supposedly runs the world of crime. And, to do that they have to go meet with one of Sofia’s former employers, a man named Berrada who provides this society with their gold coins. He gives John the location of the Elder, but in the process shoots one of Sofia’s trained dogs, causing her and John to go on a rampage, killing everyone in Barrada’s compound.
Meanwhile, back in New York, a woman known as an Adjudicator has arrived from the High Table, the governing body of this criminal world, to see what has happened. She has decided that Winston, John’s friend and manager of the Continental, is to step down, and that the Bowery King, another figure who has helped John, is also to be removed. And, to accomplish that, she brings an assassin named Zero to help establish her new order, seemingly killing the Bowery King. Which is going to be a problem for John, who actually does meet with the Elder in the middle of the desert, and re-establishes himself as an assassin for the High Table, entering back into the world of killing. But, he’s tasked with killing Winston to prove his fealty. So, John returns to New York and the Continental, and makes it immediately clear that he has no ill will towards Winston. So, the two decide to do something reckless. They’re going to succeed from the High Table. Which, is a death-sentence. The Adjudicator sends in several waves of trained killers, along with Zero and his disciples to kill John and take the Continental back. This leads to a night of intense combat, with John ultimately coming out on top. He kills the soldiers, and Zero, and earns a parlay between him, Winston, and the Adjudicator. Unfortunately, part of that parlay involves the High Table welcoming Winston back to the fold, at the expense of John Wick. And, Winston agrees. He shoots John, and watches as he falls off the top of the building, presumably to his death. But, you can never count out John Wick. Because he survives the fall, and is brought to the hidden laid of the Bowery King, who survived his attempted murder. And, together, they decide to burn the High Table down, and establish a new order.
I love these movies. They’re just a sheer miracle. When the first one came out, I had no idea what to expect. I just went to see it more out of boredom than anything else. And, instantly, I was hooked. These insane movies are operating completely on their own wavelength, accomplishing something that no other American action movies are doing, and doing it flawlessly. This films is a pure distillation of decades of action cinema, borrowing images and ideas from dozens of different action movies from around the world, and synthesizing it into something so wonderful and pure. And, as if the world-class fight choreography wasn’t enough, the film also continues the series’ grand tradition of building one of the most interesting and engaging worlds I’ve ever seen. World building is hard, especially in a movie that a certain percentage of viewers are just watching for over-the-top kills, but this movie does it flawlessly, building on everything that’s come before it while also branching out in new and unexpected ways, making this insane world bigger and weirder than ever before. I really can’t think of many other franchises like John Wick, that get better with each entry. And it’s something to cherish. These are movies that you literally spend the entire run-time on the edge of your seat, fascinated to see what’s going to happen never, what insane twist will be tossed out, and what jaw-dropping piece of action choreography will be thrust up on you next.
And, thankfully, the movie shows that it has no intentions of slowing down. Hollywood has always been pretty tied to the notion of trilogies, something that doesn’t really seem that necessary. Perhaps it’s because movie franchises that attempt to go past three films in a row tend to fall apart at that point, falling victim of the trap of being bigger and better than the last film, and reaching the point of absurdity. So, because I’ve been trained that movie franchises are built around three movies, I felt like this movie would maybe reach something resembling a conclusion. But, thankfully, it doesn’t. By the end of this movie you get the feeling that things are just beginning, that whole new epic storyline is getting ready to launch off of this pad, and that these three movies may have just been the launch pad for something truly special. Everyone involved in the making of these movies seems to have an absolute ball with them, and they’ve made it clear that as long as people are enjoying them and they’re successful, they’ll keep making them, guaranteeing more John Wick fun for the forseeable future. And, I can’t help but get incredibly excited about that. By the end of this movie we see just about everything in John Wick’s life shift, putting the character on even more on the outs. And, after seeing John Wick get crushed for three movies straight by this society, this High Table, it seems like he’s finally going to flip it all over. They’ve been asking from the beginning if John is “back,” if he’s come back to the fold and re-entered this world of crime. But, now it seems like he’s here to bring it all down. And, I for one, can’t wait to see him try.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum was written by Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, and Marc Abrams, directed by Chad Stahelski, and released by Summit Entertainment, 2019.
Categories: Reel Talk