Published on May 27th, 2019 | by Craig Silliphant


John Wick 3: Parabellum

John Wick 3 expands on the Wickiverse even further, which changes its DNA from what the first movie was all about, but mostly works well. 

While I was watching John Wick 3: Parabellum, I couldn’t decide if it was a brilliant action movie in line with the original, or a silly, cheesy, post-Fast and Furious goofball fest.  I made a decision in the end, but let’s unpack this thing together.

My love for the original John Wick harkens back to the John Woo movies that I loved in my 20s, like The Killer and Hard BoiledJohn Wick stripped them down even further, removing Woo’s excesses to create a minimal, violent film that was all lean beef (and no slow motion doves).  Wick’s killing style was a metaphor for the movie itself.  No wasted moves.  Grab the guy, footsweep to knock him off balance, headshot to put him down, on to the next guy and repeat.

That same minimalism even helped me appreciate Keanu Reeves a bit more.  He’s been in some great movies, but I think he’s a very wooden actor.  However, in roles where the dialogue is minimized and he can use his finely tuned body as a choreographed weapon, his strengths shine (especially at 54 years old).  I’m not sure what it says about me, but watching Reeves fly from body to body, delivering headshots like the mailman of death, makes me feel what bougie cultured people probably feel like when they watch a sublime ballet.

I had problems with John Wick 2; not only did it feel like it was giving me too much information about the mysterious underground that the first movie presented, but it also had construction problems.  We don’t need to get too far down that rabbit hole here, but I wanted to mention it because Wick 3 is a further extension of that widening of the scope.

Maybe it was watching Wick galloping through New York on a horse while fighting off thugs, maybe it was watching him wander through the desert to find the mysterious boss who could absolve him, but at one point I realized I had to decide if I could roll with all of this or not.  It’s moved so far from what the original John Wick was, it would be hard to go back now.  It’s moved the goal post on what John Wick even is.  As Feedback Society contributor Jeff Thiessen said to me, “that’s where my mind is now at for Wick movies.”  They’ve done more bonkers Wick movies like this than they have like the original.  As Jeff notes, the studios feel the need to keep amping things up, fearing dimished returns.  And hey, they may be right.  If John Wick 3 was just another John Wick, maybe I’d be complaining that it was stale and out of ideas.

Anyway, the movie was just so damn fun, I decided to roll with it.

And that’s even considering the fact that there’s no real script or character development to speak of.  And that if you start to think about the rules of the movie or some of the decisions the characters are making, it starts to unravel pretty quickly.  And watching Halle Berry and Keanu Reeves trying to “act” is a pretty cringeworthy affair.  But hey, it’s an operatic ballet of headshots and dogs grabbing groins and knife throwing and swords slicing up bodies — who goes to a John Wick movie for character development, anyway?

There’s also a lot more humour in this movie, which again, makes the vibe more wink wink over cold brutality, but if we’re going this route, we might as well be entertaining.  Mark Dacascos is worth mention with a standout turn as a bad guy who is a John Wick fanboy.

While John Wick 3 doesn’t stand up to the streamlined splendour of the first movie, but it’s its own thing, and it’s definitely better than the 2nd one. If you can let go and not think too hard about it, it’s a helluva good time.

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is a D-level celebrity with delusions of grandeur. A writer, critic, creative director, editor, broadcaster, and occasional filmmaker, his thoughts have appeared on radio, television, in print, and on the web. He is a juror on the Polaris Music Prize and the Juno Awards. He loves Saskatoon. He has horrible night terrors and apocalyptic dreams.

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