'John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum' film review: Once fresh franchise shows its age
From the opening moments, the latest in this bullet-crazed series "John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum" (opening in theaters May 17) hits the ground running and doesn't take a break. This is as much the film's strength as it is its weakness.
In short: After killing a leading member of an international assassin's guild, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is on the run - with a massive bounty on his head and hunted by every killer around the globe. Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Mark Dacascos, Laurence Fishburne and Halle Berry also star.
No one walks into a "John Wick" flick expecting layers of character development and introspective character analysis - these flicks are all about the bone cracking and visceral violence. And all the hot shots. So very many head shots. There might not be another single action flick or series where the protagonist hits the target more often - seriously: John's accuracy score is ridiculous.
The film's biggest moments comes from the increasingly creative and crazy kills. Swords through head, knives through limbs, bullets precisely fired through gaps in full-body armor and dogs apparently trained to target the groin. Credit to the stunt team for the innovative and exciting fight sequences. For a movie with so many long action sequences, no two sequences look alike and "Parabellum" ratchets up the action from the previous two movies.
But herein lies the problem. Yes the action scenes are creative - but 90 percent of "Parabellum" is spent watching waves of faceless goons getting shot in the face by John Wick. That was fun for the first movie. And "Chapter 2" expanded on that basic idea and made it more entertaining. But at this point, fatigue begins to set in. Watching Wick cut, shoot and kick his way through hundreds of goons isn't as fresh or fun as it was in the first film. By the end, it's difficult not to feel as tired and beaten up as Wick is after the relentless fighting - only because the prolonged action scenes very nearly overstay their welcome. No single sequence in the film is "boring" by any means, however, the cumulative effect of watching Wick dismantle henchmen becomes tedious.
For a movie that's more than two hours long -- surprisingly very little plot is developed. Thankfully the series continues its brilliant world-building efforts, finally hinting at Wick's past and fleshing out the crazy, assassin-filled world run by the High Table. Anjelica Huston, Asia Kate Dillon and Berry are great additions to the franchise, as they further fill out the dark but ordered world of murderers who kill with ruthless efficiency, but operate with a strict code of honor and rules. But the titular character himself only makes a few character choices - he's otherwise a focused killer just trying to get from point-A to point-B. The film plays a bit too coy with Wick's motivations or even his intentions - leaving the audience to just go along for the ride. “Parabellum” flirts with some internal character conflict for John - but most of the time, he’s simply in hunt-kill mode.
Final verdict: The third entry in the series takes the bloody action to the next level -- however, the minimal plot and relentless overkill leaves the film feeling like empty, but delicious calories.
"John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum" opens in theaters nationwide May 17. This action flick has a running time of 130 minutes and is rated R for pervasive strong violence, and some language.