‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ review: Too much, John, too much

John Wick 3 review: Keanu Reeves as John Wick riding a horse through the streets of New York in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Keanu Reeves as John Wick riding a horse through the streets of New York in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum review in a nutshell

RELENTLESS. While the action scenes are as good as ever, it becomes tiring after a while when they just won’t stop.

Click here or scroll below for where to watch John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.

Movie synopsis

After breaking the rules of neutral ground by killing a target in the Continental hotel, John Wick finds himself on the run from the assassin world with a $14 million bounty on his head.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum movie review (with spoilers)

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum comes out during a perfect storm of all Keanu Reeves’ projects being released at about the same time: John Wick 3 in mid-May, Ali Wong’s Always Be My Maybe (where he cameos as a exaggerated version of himself) in end May on Netflix, and Toy Story 4 in late June where he voices over-the-top racecar driver Duke Caboom. And that’s not including his appearance in early June at video game conference E3 to promote “Cyberpunk 2077” for Xbox, where he was welcomed so rapturously by fans that he was stunned.

Highlights of Keanu’s cameo in Always Be My Maybe

In addition, this year is the 25th anniversary of Speed, his “bus that cannot stop” summer 1994 movie with Sandra Bullock, and the 20th anniversary of The Matrix being out. (Still as amazing as it was when I first watched it.) In short, it’s been a busy two months for Keanu.

While I haven’t watched the other two movies, I have watched John Wick: Chapter 3. Unfortunately, I have slightly less complimentary thoughts about it than I had for the first movie, which I LOVED.

My problem with it? Chapter 3 is RELENTLESS. The fighting, slashing and precisely-aimed gunshots never seem to end. I was down for that in the first two movies, because it was relatively fresh then to see such well-choreographed fight scenes. Don’t get me wrong: The fight scenes are still well-choreographed, and you’ll never see another protagonist spending almost as much time reloading his guns as he does shooting them. But now they feel like they’ve gone on for too long — like take-up-at-least-2/3s-of-the-movie long. I feel exhausted just watching him fight. Plot? What plot?

Keanu Reeves as John Wick fighting two guys in hand-to-hand combat
This hand-to-hand combat scene was so meticulously shot that it felt interminable.

Sure, there’s a lot more fleshing out of this assassin’s world they’ve built, and they’ve introduced cool new characters like Halle Berry’s Sofia, another assassin with a mysterious past who’s extremely attached to her dogs, and Jerome Flynn (Bronn from Game of Thrones!), a go-between in the assassin’s world who’s obviously nuts because he covets other people’s fierce-looking dogs. (Serves him right that he got mauled by them later.) But this mythology is getting WAY too convoluted for my liking.

Keanu Reeves as John Wick and Halle Berry as Sofia in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Keanu Reeves as John Wick and Halle Berry as Sofia in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Also, John basically cut off his finger, and gave away his wedding ring for nothing! He trekked all the way into the desert to find the head of the High Table to remove the $14 million bounty on his head (incurred from the last movie when he killed someone in the Continental, aka neutral ground), which the Elder said he would only do so if John killed Winston, the manager of the Continental who gave him a grace period of one hour to escape. So John cut off his ring finger and gave up his wedding ring to show his loyalty to the High Table again. But in the end, he rejected his mission to kill Winston when it came down to it, and his death sentence still hasn’t been lifted! All he did was buy himself a few days to live. :S

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) meeting the Elder (Saïd Taghmaoui) in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) meeting the Elder (Saïd Taghmaoui) in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

And to be honest, his reasons for wanting to live are iffy to me. I would have just given up and died instead of selling my soul to live just to preserve a memory, since he basically has no one else left he cares about in the world. (Except for his dog, but I’m sure Charon would have taken good care of it.) I feel it’s better to die and join my loved ones on the other side. But John’s John.

I’m also irked that he kept wasting bullets by shooting his enemies a few more times than he needed to when they’re obviously dead. No wonder he has to keep reloading!

But the fight scenes with the dogs look extremely convincing. I wonder how they pulled that off. If I were the stuntmen, I would have been terrified out of my wits.

Here’s director Chad Stahelski explaining how they pulled it off.

The Adjudicator character was very annoying because she went round being judgey and punishing everyone who helped John. I would have killed her off, and I’m surprised John didn’t, given he doesn’t care about breaking rules even after he literally cut off his ring finger and gave up his wedding ring to uphold them. But they needed her for the story, so she stayed.

The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), Tick Tock Man (Jason Mantzoukas) and Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillion)
The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), Tick Tock Man (Jason Mantzoukas) and Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillion) in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Winston’s betrayal came as a surprise. But I read the initial script for John Wick: Chapter 2, and that draft had Winston as a more self-serving character who manipulated John, so I guess they took that idea and fleshed it out in this 3rd installment instead.

Ian McShane as Winston
Ian McShane as Winston in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

You can read my summary of the John Wick: Chapter 2 script below, which I read and did up in 2015. The script obviously went through quite a few changes before they released that movie in 2017 (spoilers in link!), so it’s interesting to see what was tweaked.

Where to watch John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Streaming services: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is on HBO NOW and HBO GO in the U.S., but not Netflix Singapore or US, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

Rent/Buy: Get it on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, FandangoNOW, Microsoft, Redbox, Catchplay+ (Singapore)


John Wick: Chapter 2 original script summary (read in May 2015)

Movie opens in a warehouse. We see John Wick fighting with Japanese Yakuza. At the end of the fight, we see the reason: he’s retrieving his Mustang (from the first movie, which was stolen by the son of his ex-boss, but unaccounted for at the end of that movie). He drives it to his friend Aurelio’s (John Leguizamo) car workshop for repair.

We see how gold coins (assassins’ currency) and markers (assassin IOUs) are manufactured and disseminated to the assassins’ world via Winston (played by Ian McShane, owner of the Continental, hotel of the assassins).

John buries the tools of his trade in cement in his basement. He lives a quiet life for 5 minutes, but we see he’s aimless. And then Asher Di Antonio, the head banker of the Camorra (Italian underworld), comes to collect on a marker that John owes him. John refuses his request, because he doesn’t want to dishonor his wife by going back to that world, knowing full well that by refusing to repay his debt, he’s unleashing hell on himself and cutting himself off from all the assassins’ resources we saw in the first movie.

The moment Asher leaves, he calls the assassins’ admin to excommunicate John and put a bounty on his head. Meanwhile, sixteen other assassins converge on John’s home and proceed to blow it up. There’s a brutal gunfight and hand-to-hand combat like in the first movie, where he kills all assassins, except John’s home is burnt to the ground, and John almost dies attempting to save mementos of his life with his dead wife.

John wakes up in a police station morgue where Winston and two other friends from the first movie are waiting. One of those friends saved him and brought him to the morgue. He tells John that everything from his home was lost in the fire. They leave, except Winston, who tells him that he cannot help him any further.

John leaves the morgue. Immediately, two assassins try to kill him. He kills them with a rolled up magazine in close quarters. He goes to a bookstore to find his hidden stash of weapons, but it’s empty, showing that everything has been taken from him, even the stash which he thought no one knew. He leaves the bookstore and walks on the street, where a sniper tries to take him out. He sprints into an alley where he kills another assassin waiting for him. An old man in the alley passes him an envelope with pictures of Winston walking on the street and Aurelio with his throat slit. John calls Asher and takes on the job, which is to kill Asher’s boss, the head of the Camorra, Adele Acerbi. The bounty is lifted from John’s head.

John goes to Italy. We see another few places of the assassins’ underworld as he gets a special suit with body armour made, and buys a sniper rifle.

John finds Adele and asks her to void his marker. Adele realises Asher has betrayed her. She cannot void the marker and stop the order to kill her, but John hands her another marker and makes her promise him the full protection of the Camorra. We see that John is going after Asher for vengeance for burning down his house and killing Aurelio. Adele tells her bodyguards to tell Asher she’s dead, so he thinks he’s now the head of the Camorra.

John asks a former associate for help. She steals items from a prominent bishop’s office and helps him forge an authorization letter to get into Vatican City, in disguise as a priest. John goes to Castel Sant’Angelo, headquarters of the Camorra, where Asher’s men discover he’s coming, and the building goes on full lockdown. A brutal climatic fight with John ensues. Despite even more highly trained assassins, and dozens of men, John kills all of them. There’s a final fight with Asher, in which John incapacitates Asher, and Adele kills him.

Because Asher is dead, his marker is void, and no consequences befall John. He picks up another mutt after leaving Castel Sant’Angelo. He goes to a hospital to get stitched up. After he leaves the hospital, Adele tells John that she thought he was helping Winston all along, but now she sees he works for himself. We see that Winston benefits the most from all the chaos John has erupted, first from killing Viggo (his ex-boss in the first movie), and now the Camorra in disarray. John says that he doesn’t fear Winston, or anyone else, because he has more power over them than they have over him.

John is back in New York, walking his new dog. Winston sits beside John and says he never used him, he only followed in his wake and picked up all the pieces. John doesn’t say anything, and we see for the first time that Winston is afraid of John. But John doesn’t do anything, only walks away.

Movie ends with John driving off in a random direction away from the city in his Mustang with his new dog.

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