Running at over two hours, JW3 is a fine example of the adage “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Chapter Three is more of the same bone-crunching martial arts and gun fetish porn that Keanununu and Chad Stahelski gave us in the first two. It may be like complaining there’s too much cake in Bake Off, or too much blacksmithing in Forged in Fire, but with the excess of splattery head-shot kills in this one, John Wick really doesn’t know when to stop.
Excommunicated from the worshipful Company of Assassins, JW has to go on the run just to survive, in what turns out to be a circular journey back to the Continental Hotel for a final showdown with the Adjudicator of the High Table. Aside from some bizarre variant of the Yakuza finger-chopping ritual, we’ve seen it all before. The entire Company is after him, so he has to kill them. All of them. With the exception of MacShane’s Winston, Lance Reddick’s Concierge and Laurence Fishbourne’s Bowery King.
The two new ingredients are Asia Kate Dillon as the wry, chilly Adjudicator, and the star of Act Two, Halle Berry’s Sofia, with her two gonad-chewing alsatian dogs.
The issue with the R-rated Wicks has always been the excessive violence dressed up as main-stream cinema which, back in the day, would have been banned ‘video nasties.’ You can admire the craft of the fight choreography and the stunt work and there’s clear homage to the action masters of yesteryear from Bruce Lee to John Woo. But for the most part this is two hours of extreme violence for the sake of it with the flimsiest excuse of a plot. Even Steven Segal movies contain more plot than this to fill the time – but then they don’t have the budget to go at it for two solid hours.
Chapter Three begins with JW taking on the entire Chinese branch of the Company inside an old weapons museum. Of course it does. Where else? There’s a lot of guff with Anjelica Huston in a ballet company where it turns out he’s from Belarus. Act Two goes International to Morocco with a bravura sequence of Reeves and Berry taking out the entire North African branch of the Company. Berry gets by far the best of it, with the prospect of a Jane Wick spin-off as a superb kick-ass female assassin, as if Luc Besson (Nikita, Lucy, Anna) hasn’t already cornered that market. But by the end of that sequence the number of headshot kills have become somewhat numbing.
Back to the Continental, then, for home-town advantage, as JW takes out the Company’s battle-armoured strike team, then what’s left of the New York Chinese branch in a neon-rendered, Enter the Dragon inspired glass maze. Action veteran Mark Dacascos does what he does best for a finale showdown.
By this time, JW has basically become the Terminator, or a Weeble – no matter how many times you knock him down, he always gets up. His final exit from the Continental is nothing short of laughable.
Chapter Three lacks the novelty of the first JW, or the operatic tone of the second. It actually feels like a difficult middle instalment of a franchise leaving the prospect of an all-out war with the High Table in the inevitable Chapter Four. Question is, where else can this go except even more excessively OTT? All JW needs for the next one is a skin of liquid metal, or some Force Lightning from his nine remaining finger tips. RC
John Wick Chapter Three: Parabellum (2019)
Director: Chad Stahelski
Writers: Derek Kolstad, Chris Collins, Marc Abrams, Shay Hatten
Running time: 131 minutes
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Saïd Taghmaoui, Jerome Flynn, Jason Mantzoukas, Tobias Segal, Boban Marjanovic, Anjelica Huston, Ian McShane