John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)

Lacking the novel simplicity of the first film, or the wondrous lore-unfolding of the second, “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” struggles a bit under its inferiority to its predecessors, but nonetheless offers much of what made those two films such enormous standouts in the genre. Gorgeous visuals, stunningly well-executed choreography, inspired action sequences, idiosyncratic worldbuilding, Keanu Reeves’ distinctive charisma-by-way-of-lacking-it (Halle Berry matches him for the second part of that equation, in her part of the film), it’s all here.

The film excels mostly in its first half-hour or so, which almost functions more as a coda to the second film than part of the third. When the film shifts into its own space, it veers off the expected setup of the second film, trudging around more of a holding-period kind of story, leaving the more obvious set-up to a potential fourth film. Still, the inspired action sequences are usually enough to hold interest. Particular highlights were a ludicrous knife-fight, a “horse-fu” sequence, a canine-assisted compound assault, and a modular siege defence.

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Perhaps the humour is the film’s standout compared to its predecessors. Mark Dacascos in particular makes some unexpected tonal shifts in dialogue work. The film is wink-ier about the goofiness of its premise, which works at this point (the first film certainly needed to play the dog motivation as straight as possible to make it, and the humour behind it, work). What works less well is the increasing sense that the series is…stalling? News of spin-off movies and a TV show abounds, and perhaps ideas are being staved off in favour of these endeavours. Even if that’s not the case, this film lacks the conceptual drive of the first two, very much seeming to palm off the better concept I’d have assumed would drive it instead over to a potential fourth film. So much of this franchise works splendidly; I hope this is the only iteration where it feels like elements are being spread too thin. Three and a half armed canines, and an extra-sharp knife.

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