In the decade-long career of reviewing films, I cannot recall a more disturbingly grotesque display of violence in a film as I witnessed in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” directed by Chad Stahelski and starring Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, and Laurence Fishburne. Wick (Reeves) returns as the member of the elite assassins group who broke the rules in “John Wick: Chapter 2” and killed a target on sacred ground…all in retaliation for killing his puppy dog. The consequences? He then becomes the mark with a high price on his head—direct orders from the “High Table.” He must fight to survive and make allies in order to have a hope of living life again. And that, my friends, is all you need to know if you missed out on the film’s two predecessors or if you’re being dragged and tortured to see this film as a severe punishment for some unforgivable sin.
The beginning of the film is dark and turns incredibly violent in the blink of an eye. There’s a gory pun there, but I’ll let you find that out if you still go see this movie after reading my review. In fact, it was so brutally shocking that audible explicatives were uttered involuntarily throughout the film, much to the surprise of my colleagues sitting next to me. The killings begin “by the book” and within moments, our visual onslaught becomes the high-speed chase scenes and long action shots filled with outstanding choreography setting the tone for the entire movie. Wick appears to be some sort of super hero, without being one, as he is able to bounce back after being stabbed in the shoulder, hit by a car, twice, crash through windows, plummet from stories above, and still fight like a ninja warrior.
There really isn’t much of a story in this film, although when The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) shows up to mete out the consequences for her subordinates’ actions, there’s a promise that it just might get interesting. Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. The entire film is comprised of chase scenes, savage bloodshed that becomes mundane, and shots to the head killing faceless and nameless souls, ultimately creating a movie that is more like watching someone play a violent video game.
“John Wick: Chapter 3” is one of the most insipid movies of the decade. Some may argue that there’s humor in this film, and I would agree. Zero (Mark Dacascos) who is Wick’s biggest enemy and his biggest fan, provides a bit of unexpected levity, but it’s not enough to forgive this film its greatest transgression—no story. Much to my surprise, the audience seemed to find many of the most repulsive savagery laugh out loud funny.
Were the special effects impressive? Yes. So impressive that the hatchet to the head will forever be ingrained in my memory. And there are the multiple brain bursts against stone walls as the bullet explodes “the enemies” faces which in turn elicited high anxiety as I drove aggressively home from Chicago that night. There are also incredible motorcycle and horseback chase scenes that still boggle my mind as to how they were performed. And finally, the hand-to-hand combat choreography was as well-orchestrated as any Boshoi Ballet performance.
However, none of this impressive implementation of stunts or effects can make up for the lack of a story. And given this lack of any substance, is it possible to find characters that you care about? No. In fact, no actual acting is necessary in this film especially given the fact that there’s barely any dialogue. And any utterance from Wick is as flatlined as the myriad number of dead bodies piled up. I ask you this. How many times can you watch one person and sometimes a team of two fire a bullet to the groin, then body, then the head? This, too, becomes a trance-like dance: shoot the groin, shoot the body, shoot the head, fall, repeat.
The film created as many situations as possible to skirmish, as if going through a check-list, covering all bases including a gun fight under water. There’s even a portion of the film that adds attack German Shepherds for a change of pace. Again, the cinematography is extraordinary, working under extremely difficult conditions and set-ups with long shots of well-orchestrated combat scenes, but can you really watch over 2 hours of this alone?
I harken back to the wise words of Robert Redford—Is it a good story told well? And the answer to this question is a resounding, “No!”
“John Wick: Chapter 3” is going to the top of my list for worst film of the decade. Skip this absolute piece garbage.
1 Stars for the cinematographers and choreographers