Chapter 3 is just as gloriously action packed as the last two, although includes a second act that kills the pacing.
Johnathan Wick is on the run. A bounty is on his head for $14 million, and every hired gun and assassin in the world is after him. All he wants is out, out of the game. But with so many enemies, is it even possible?
It is honestly remarkable that the John Wick films have succeeded, not just in having two sequels but in light of what is “popular” in Hollywood right now. But not only are they successful, they are consistent. We’ve not had a trilogy this consistent since the Bourne series, and as such John Wick will be remembered as an exception in these muddy, merchandised times.
Hollywood nice guy Keanu Reeves returns as the titular character, while Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, and director Chad Stahelski also return, with even more intense action and incredible choreography. Chapter 3 certainly starts off strong, in fact, it is safe to say that the first twenty minutes of this film is utterly captivating. Following the carnage of the second film, we are treated to a seamless chase as the bounty on John’s head activates. He his hunted by multitudes of thugs, eventually leading us into a literal museum of weapons. While incredible physical performances are going on, we can see in the background hundreds of weapons, patiently waiting to be picked up. A fight involving knives is especially jaw-dropping. Extremely gory too, more than either of the previous films.
Of course, it isn’t just ultra violence and gun-play. The film has a slick sense of humour as well, and of course a wicked sense of sophistication that was especially bold in the second film. A great deal of this film takes place at The Continental, the hotel that Ian McShane’s character Winston runs, and safe haven for assassins like Wick. Here we still have the delightfully playful humour that accompanies these business-as-usual assassins.
However, while John Wick 3 is being heavily praised by critics, it isn’t the best in the series. While the action across the story may be more versatile, the pacing is choppy. The first film felt like a story, the second one was a non-stop chase, this film feels oddly burdened with exposition. The need to explain itself, and this is not felt more than in its second act.
A strange segway to Casablanca, far away from the normal visual aesthetic of the Wick films, and we meet Halle Berry’s character. We’ve never met her before, but we are quickly shown she is as tough as John. One action sequence later, and it is bye bye to this sequence and back to New York.
It is cumbersome. The fights with both John and Berry’s Sofia feel less elegant; more edits required to follow two heroes, and half the screen time for each of them. While Sofia’s character is good, and her attack dogs are a nice touch, the entire second act feels laboured.
The third act is a return to form, with more familiar settings and classic “John Wick action” as Reeves himself has called it. Although it does bend into action tropes; a singular bad guy surfaces to act as John’s main focus of attack. Compared to the relentless assault that was the second film, this feels more staged, more convenient.
But the action is still incredible, and the balance of sophistication, of marbled halls and gilded weapon racks, with intense gun battles and hand-to-hand combat is a marvel. It isn’t as good as the second film, but it is certainly an incredible piece of action cinema.