John Wick is back for Chapter 3: Parabellum.
With the beloved franchise making its return to the big screen, we’re here to answer the question on everyone’s minds: “can the third instalment live up to the hype or it will it put the franchise six feet under?”
How does it improve from Chapter 2?
If there was a weakness in the 2nd instalment, it was that John’s motivations seemed a lot less focussed. He was being blackmailed back into his life as an assassin for reasons that few were invested in. The audience had little connection to the power structures of the Continental and as a result John’s motivations were a lot less interesting.
This time round, John is fighting for his very survival and the film is all the better for it. The action is unrelenting and the stakes just feel much higher. The narrative continues to build from the 2nd instalment. John has been marked for death and embarks on a mission to clear his name. The only question is how much of his humanity is he willing to sacrifice?
What can you tell us about the action in the film?
The third instalment delivers some of the best action set pieces we’ve had in the series. I would be doing the film a massive disservice to say what action sequences happen on screen. Suffice to say, terms like “knife fight” and “attack dogs” will hold special meaning to those who’ve watched the film and know how brilliant some of the set pieces are.
Keanu Reeves has always been heavily underrated as a physical performer. He embodies John Wick and is heavily involved with the stunts and action choreography. If Gun-fu (Martial arts mixed with gun play) is your thing, then this film is definitely for you!
This is not a case of simply watching a stunt actor with reaction shots from the lead. Reeves is front and centre and you feel every hit he takes. Most importantly, the fights are clear and shot primarily with wide shots so you can see what is happening. No shonky CGI or bizarre jump-cuts to take you out of the action, just pure awesomeness.
His final action set piece is a brilliant homage to Bruce Lee’s “Enter The Dragon”.
How does John Wick work as a character?
John Wick has always been depicted as a force of nature, he’s not known for being quippy or manic, he’s swift, ruthless and as stubborn as a pitbull. Much like Daniel Craig’s interpretation of James Bond, there can at times be difficulty relating to an action hero with a personality that simply isn’t dynamic.
With JW3 we do get some insight into the character’s past but honestly it feels more like a glimpse and it leaves the viewer wanting more. In many ways, one of the biggest problems with the franchise to date has been that John Wick has been a fully formed assassin right from the beginning. When we think of this in super hero terms it’s a bit like cutting out the origin story or the training arc and simply just giving us powered-up hero right from the start.
The original John Wick film was essentially a self contained revenge film, mostly well executed but as a one shot revenge tale it didn’t seem to need the back story. By the sequel, it started to become apparent that John Wick as a character was somewhat underdeveloped. JW3 does little to fix this problem though we do get a few more insights into his past.
What other actors can we expect to see?
That being said, it’s definitely the newcomers who steal the show.
Halle Berry’s Sofia is regrettably under-utilised, which is a shame because the scenes that she does have are some of the most memorable. Mark Dacascos is brilliant as the deadly assassin Zero, his physical performance is phenomenal but it’s arguably some of the humour that his character exudes that make him truly memorable.
For those who’ve enjoyed the first two instalments, JW3 is certainly a worthy addition to the franchise. It offers some of the best action set pieces to date and helps to flesh out our protagonist a little more. In terms of narrative, there’s not a huge amount to offer but I suspect most action fans will be okay with this. JW3 isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel but it is an attempt to course correct. It’s a significant improvement over its predecessor and a solid example of filmmakers listening to the criticisms of their fan base.