“John Wick: Chapter 3” review: fine film, disappointing follow up

Nicholas Solomon

Something is missing in the latest Wick movie

When John Wick released in 2014, it introduced me to action in a way that I hadn’t seen before. Beyond expertly filmed action, with an experience boasting both style and substance, I immediately fell in love with the film, and it drew me to so many others that came before it: John Woo films, Martial Arts films, you name it. I loved everything about the film from Keanu Reeves to the visual style and the soundtrack done by Tyler Bates. The same can be said about its sequel Chapter 2 that released in 2017, which in some ways surpasses the original. Then, Chapter 3 came out.

Directed once again by Chad Stahelski, John Wick 3 takes place immediately after the first and second films, in which retired but non-hitman Wick (Keanu Reeves) is on the run from scores of hitmen after a 14 million dollar bounty is put on his head for actions he took during the second film. Reeves is joined by series mainstays Lance Reddick, Laurence Fishburne and Ian McShane, but also joined by Halle Berry, Mark Dacascos and Asia Kate Dillon.

For those looking for another solid action romp, this is another great one worth watching, but as a sequel, Wick 3 has certain issues that need to be addressed.

The good things should be addressed first, and that is the cast and the action. Halle Berry is the best part of the film, while disappointingly having minimal screentime, her character manages to overshadow Wick completely, and once she leaves, the rest of the film suffers because of it. Dillon’s character, the Adjudicator, functions as the informal villain of Wick, with Dacascos playing Zero, another villain that addresses a problem some fans have with the second, that Wick has yet to find an actual equal in combat, and Dacascos is more than that, being incredibly fun every time he shows up on screen.

Then there is the action, and there is so much of it, to the point where I would doze off because there was so much. The crucial thing that is missing though is the catharsis that came with the action in the first two. Wick had clear, strong motivations that anyone can relate to, and each action scene felt earned and incredibly cathartic. In this one, that is somewhat absent. While there are some of the best action scenes I have ever seen done on film, there were some that just felt disappointing.

That leads me to some other problems, the first being the script, and it goes hand in hand as to why some of the action just fell flat in terms of packing an emotional punch.  The first two were intentional, and they both felt like they had a specific end in sight, this one does not. The film had strange on-and-off pacing that I could never quite mesh with, and most of all, the story feels like complete filler, prime evidence being the beginning and the end of the film. While plenty of big events happened, almost nothing changes for Wick, and so many of the characters have plot armor so jarringly thick it lead to annoyance, and for one that is Reeves’ Wick.

What makes Wick less of a fun character in this one is his immortality. The first two felt like he was just a superhumanly skilled human, but in 3, there are so many examples of how he is injured and beaten, and even by Wick standards, he should have absolutely been killed. Getting slammed through glass dozens of times, falling off ledges, this happened so frequently it annoyed me to the point where it pulled me out of the experience.

The last thing to nitpick is the soundtrack. While I will always be down to listen to more of Bates’ work, just like of the rest of the film, there is something missing to it, and that is the absence of tracks done by Le Castle Vania. While in some other films soundtrack may not be very important, John Wick and John Wick 2 set a precedent for having great soundtracks, with Marilyn Manson as well as Vania having parts to play. In this one, it is just Bates, and many of the tracks are reused from 2, and I just kept waiting and waiting for Vania’s electronic music to show up, but it never did.

As an action movie with people who don’t necessarily care about the characters, John Wick: Chapter 3-Parabellum is a fine film. It has a good cast, good visuals and plenty of action, but as a sequel, it falters. It feels quite vapid in comparison of the first two, feeling like absolute filler and sequel bait more than anything else, and I hope the inevitable next one puts the franchise back on the right track.

Edited by Adam White and Abbie Barth