Released: 16th May
Seen: 13th May (Advance Screening)
The John Wick movie series is THE action franchise of the 2010s, if no one has already made that claim then allow me to be the first to state it. A series about vengeance and how it can destroy a life, every movie has put us right beside the assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) as he searches for the men who killed his puppy. That sentence alone is almost farcical, isn’t it? An endless amount of wanton bloodshed because of a puppy being killed? Well, since the puppy was the last reminder of John’s wife and the people who killed his dog used to be the people he worked for, it’s a little more complicated than that. Since his need for vengeance has grown and grown, he’s angered people who have more than enough resources to make his life a living nightmare and now we’re in the third chapter of this tale and while it continues to be expansive, how does this chapter hold up in comparison to those that have come before it.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum takes place an hour after the second movie with John now considered excommunicado from the organisation that he used to work for and therefore a bounty of $14 million has been placed upon his head. In order to ensure he lives to see another day, John must not only withstand a city full of assassins desperate to claim his head and the bounty that comes with it but he needs to find a way to get the organisation to allow him back in, give him a chance to live his life so that he can remember his wife. In his travels, he will need help from people who could be killed for helping him. It won’t be easy to stay alive but if you know anything about John Wick, you will know that he always finds a way to avoid dying.
With some sequels, you really don’t need to watch the movies that came before in order to understand just what is happening. It will often help but a lot of them tell self-contained stories that you can watch fairly easily without any prior knowledge. Here? No, this one you need to watch the previous two movies in order to follow everything that’s going on. At least watch the second one because the final moments of that film will basically inform the entirety of this one. You also will want to watch those two films because this movie doesn’t seem to offer a complete narrative, it’s a passage between part two and the inevitable part four. The story begins at a point that would be the middle for most other films and then just keeps going, building to an ending which is really cool but is also clearly a setup for at least one more part. That being said, just because this film is a connection between two meatier stories that doesn’t mean it can’t be the best goddamn connection you’ve ever seen.
Saying a John Wick film looks good is a little bit like saying the sky is blue, it’s obvious but there are times when it needs to be called out. This film looks absolutely amazing; they paint with coloured light like Jackson Pollock used paint. Everywhere you look there are bold colours splashing against the scenery, bright purples and greens and reds, unnatural colours that you never see in a film are thrown around here and it’s gloriously done. A shootout scene is old hat, let’s have a shootout scene with an army of men in completely bulletproof armour against two guys in nicely tailored suits with green lighting that goes along every piece of architecture. Why? BECAUSE IT’S PRETTY! Every shot just feels like it was created by a delirious cinematographer who got high and wanted colour everywhere and when anyone questioned him he just screamed “IT LOOKS PRETTY SO DO IT!” and I am here for all of it. I am into an insanely saturated landscape where the main character stands out so much precisely because there is no colour anywhere on his outfit (except for red but sometimes when you’re beating a guy to death with a book you got from the library, you get a little bit on you. It happens, Febreeze can’t do everything). If you just go to this film for technicolour violence, you’re in for a treat.
The film moves along at a rocket fast pace, possibly because not only is the film entirely made up of the brightest colours that they could find but because the film is end-to-end action scenes. It’s like a video game, as soon as one set piece is done we get the briefest dialogue scene possible before we’re moving onto the next one. Each scene getting progressively more extreme and bloody, weapons needing to be upgraded, bad guys getting harder to kill… basically this is a video game but you don’t get to hold a controller during it, and it’s awesome. Seriously after the 5th violent massacre involving guns and every kind of martial arts you can conceive of (and about three you can’t conceive of) you’d think it’d get dull but it never does. It ratchets the action up slowly and uses the action to advance the story, which in this case is “John would really like to not die today”. Sure he also wants to go into the middle of the desert by Casablanca in order to find the head of the table so that he can do what needs to be done in order to reverse the excommunication, but did I mention a guy gets beaten to death with a book and then there’s an entire scene with ninja swordsmen on motorbikes?
As I mentioned, the big problem here is that the film isn’t very self-contained. It’s clear that they realised that there is a huge franchise here and so they need to set everything up for the endgame and that’s fine, I’m already excited for the next one that is basically inevitable because these things are money printing machines. They could also pay this one off of in the Continental series that’s apparently been ordered, but you can tell that they’re building up to something big… but the way they did it kind of makes it feel like we went the long way around to get to something that most films would get to in 10 minutes. It’s still a really nice trip to get to this spot, I enjoyed the scenery on the way here, but there was a way to get here faster and also we now have another several hours to go.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a glorious candy-coloured violent thrill ride that grabs you by the throat and drags you along behind it while it runs through as much cool shit as it can come up with. It doesn’t stop for air, doesn’t really need to, because breathing is a pointless activity when you are watching Theodore “Ted” Logan go crazy on a roomful of people dressed like they’re going to an “I want to be shot in the head” party. It’s fun, it’s so much fun. It’s over the top and insane and there are moments when you might not know what’s going on but who cares because it’s fun. It feels like we’re just stopping through on the way to something bigger, but we’re stopping through some pretty lush scenery on the way and… what can I say; I’m a sucker for pretty scenery.