Movie Review: “John Wick 3” – Gun-fu? Fun-fu!

Written by Jeremiah Greville May 27, 2019

The John Wick films take place in a strange world of assassins and shadowy organizations, but the story so far is relatively simple. I’ve summarized it below:

Keanu Reeves fights Keanu thieves while Keanu grieves, but Keanu’s naive and Keanu leaves before Keanu receives his Keanu reprieve, so Keanu heaves from his Keanu sleeves about eighteen tonnes of world-class badassery you won’t friggin’ Keanu believe.

Because if one thing is true, it’s that Keanu overachieves.

John Wick 3 (or “John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum“) stars Keanu Reeves as John Wick. He’s old, bold, and a joy to behold as he shoots, stabs, punches, shoots, kicks, strangles, and shoots his way through about half of the world’s population just to stay alive. The story picks up directly following the conclusion of John Wick 2 and finds our hero on the run from the very shadowy organization of assassins he once worked for. Now, the world’s deadliest and most famous assassin is forced to call in old favours as he’s hunted across the world. John Wick 3 also stars Ian McShane, Mark Dacascos, Laurence Fishburne, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, and Halle Berry. It’s directed by Chad Stahelski, Reeves’ former stunt double, who also directed the first two films in the series.

“I’d say the odds are about even.”

I think that the colours of reality are starting to bleed and run together in this spin cycle we call life, because I’m halfway convinced that Keanu Reeves has been playing the same action character for thirty years. Johnny Utah is Jack Traven is Johnny Mnemonic is Neo is John Wick. This is cannon now. They’re not similar characters — they’re the same character. The John Wick films take place inside the Matrix and Johnny Utah has traded his in surfing gear for gun-fu and near immortality. John Wick is Neo’s retirement plan. Johnny Mnemonic was Neo in another version of the Matrix. Jack Traven is the sexy one. They’re all connected, people. Forget about Lawrence Fishbourne showing up — the Keymaker and the Doctor are played by the same actor! THEY’RE ALL CONNECTED! TELL THE WORLD!

…anyway, John Wick 3 is good. Really good. But since we’re talking about a genre film, let’s talk a bit about what ‘good’ means here. The script won’t blow anyone’s socks off (leave that for John Wick) and takes some twists and turns that seem silly and meandering in retrospect. The dialogue is okay, but often comes off as ham-fisted or melodramatic. The acting is serviceable, but…yeah, you get the point. Action movies are all about set-pieces, and the story and script only exist to make the transitions between set-pieces as smooth as possible. When the script and dialogue help that transition, they’re good. When they get in the way, they’re bad. John Wick’s ludicrous world of opaque assassin rules and traditions only exists to explain why all of the people are shooting all of the other people.

“He broke the rules.”

So even though the script and acting are just okay, John Wick 3 is still really good. The action is incredible, and continues to elevate and innovate from the first two films. In addition to the standard John Wick gun-fu, we can now add elaborate knife fights, horseback car chases, and tactical dog-fighting to the list of crazy s#*t that Keanu Reeves can actually apparently do. When taken on concept, a lot of that sounds like it just shouldn’t work, but the stunt and fight choreography in the John Wick series has always been top-notch. Director Chad Stahelski knows how to make each of these scenes work, and Reeves seems to revel in bringing each elaborate set piece to life.

And he’s not alone. Halle Berry’s dog-loving assassin is a highlight of the film, and while she’s not in the movie for very long, she definitely leaves an impression. Lance Reddick and Mark Dacascos also shine in their respective action scenes, with the former finally getting a chance to stretch his muscles after the first two films, and the latter turning what could have been a forgettable bad-guy role into a delightfully charismatic foil to the main character. Yayan Ruhian and Cepep Arif Rahman from The Raid deliver one of the series’ best fight scenes to date. It’s clear that the filmmakers behind the Raid series and the John Wick films — two of the best action franchises of the past decade — have a lot of respect for each other.

“Either way, you and me, we’ll be even.”

The only weak spots are Fishbourne and Dillon. Fishbourne delivers his most cartoonish performance yet and seems to revel in his role, but it’s a bit much at times. It’s almost as if he’s in a different film entirely. Asia Kate Dillon, meanwhile, is a disappointment. The non-binary actor physically embodies their role well, bringing controlled movements and calm menace to each scene they’re in, but their line delivery falls completely flat and undermines their physical work. I feel bad criticizing the actor, since Dillon’s role is a big step for representation in film. But wherever the blame lies, Dillon’s scenes just don’t work. Their presence doesn’t ruin the film, but for such a large role, it doesn’t add anything either.

But holy cornflakes Batman, that action. It’s incredible. It strains credulity to the breaking point and beyond that John Wick survives any of the things he goes through, but that’s the beauty of the character. From the very first film, we were told he was the Boogeyman (“Baba Yaga”), and now three films in, we’re seeing the truth of that. This is not Die Hard, and John Wick is not an every-man hero. He’s a force of nature, and so is Keanu Reeves. John Wick 3 is that rare breed of action film that leaves you as breathless and beaten as the characters in it. It’s a damn good time in theatres, and the perfect film to fawn over with friends long after the lights go up.

My Rating: 8/10

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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