Home ContentMovie Review: John Wick 3 - PARABELLUM

Movie Review: John Wick 3 - PARABELLUM

Published : May 16, 2019

Bullet Ballet and some Belly Laughs
Reviewed by Libby Collett


Reviewed by Libby Collett

If I was really honest, the John Wick movie trilogy saga would probably never make it to the top of my ‘must see’ list, but as I have recently subjected my lovely husband to sitting through a steady diet of chick flicks (sorry women-lead storytelling) lately, it was the least I could do to take one for the team, as it were, and give the third instalment a spin.

Upon entering the cinema, it was very clear who the target market for this film was.  The cinema was steeped in the heady aroma of Lynx and as the crowd of mostly men aged 18-25 piled in, some with their girlfriends, but most were clearly on a bro date, and unapologetically so.  Ever an eager student of the male mind, I tried to stay open to whatever John Wick’s third round of entertainment might deliver.

So the story, from what I can tell (and story here was pretty thin on the ground) is that John Wick was raised in Belarus to be a professional assassin, a life he spurned at some point when he found the three loves of his life – a mint vintage Mustang, his beautiful wife and his pet beagle.  In a classic use of hero warrior story arc, earlier in the trilogy all three of these precious things are taken from him and he pursues a life of vengeance thereafter and search for meaning and redemption.  By part three of this triptych, Mr Wick ends up with a significant bounty on his head and now everyone, literally, everyone is out to get him.

And so… the time spent is basically one epically choreographed fight sequence after another as gang after gang of ninjas, mujahideen and other nasties try to get the guy and cash in the bounty.  It would be saying too much to tell you if John Wick lives to fight another day but if John Wick IV is already in the production by the time I write this, I wouldn’t be surprised. 

Keanu Reaves in the title role, despite limping and bleeding throughout the entire film, beats off his opponents (and there are a lot of them, I wished by about 5 minutes in that I had kept a body count – it would be in the hundreds) with relative ease.  I will say this film is graphically violent, but more than just a gore fest, the makers start early with a scene in a library that was so brutal it had the audience first gasping, then groaning, and then actually laughing.  During the 2 hours 23 minutes you see people killed, maimed and obliterated by a dazzlingly creative range of methods – although most are dispatched via traditional methods like guns and knives, others meet their fate by book, by horse, by leather belt, by Alsatian, and one poor chap ending up the human equivalent of a knife block.  Ouch.

Because the violent scenes didn’t really do it for me, and because I had long since given up on a story to sustain me, I found myself looking at the symbolism in the film.  There is an undercurrent of not-so-subtle racism at work.  After the first half hour, most of his assailants are barely humanised stereotypes – Muslims wearing robes and with headwear, and a heap of motorcyclists who keep their helmets on.  Why are these enemies faceless?  Is it because they only had budget for so many ninja warrior stuntmen and needed to recycle them scene after scene?  There is little account given for the loss of life here, and epic fight scenes take place in public with no visible impact on the passers-by. 

The dialogue is perplexing and strange with none of the meta-narrative of The Matrix or Reeves’ other more interesting work.  Despite the appearance of solid cast members like Lawrence Fishburne and Halle Berry, the parts where people are not being killed really just feel like filler between sequences where Wick opens the can of whoop arse once again.  It really feels like a big-budget video game that’s well shot.  The city of New York features beautifully, with epic hotels, and scenes in iconic landmarks such as Grand Central station, the New York Public Library and Times Square.  Reeves’ devotion to the memory of his dead wife is sweet, but with her out of the picture (literally) and no friends/home/cause to fight for, you do wonder… John Wick is it all worth it?  His legion of bro fans are certainly counting on it.

Three horse kicks to the head out of five.

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