John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has been excommunicated from the all-powerful organisation of assassins that seem to control the entire world. Running low on allies and bullets, Wick must escape New York and find a way to clear his name before the world’s best assassins catch up with him.
The John Wick films, under the direction of former stuntman Chad Stahelski, have always excelled in action, and its third chapter does not disappoint. It’s the same brand of delightfully brutal, close quaters brawling and inventive deaths that has become the series’ trademark. It’s not flawless, however, and there are some unconvincing effects and awkward moments where guys just stand around waiting for the next move. But the inventiveness of the choreography, the often stunning cinematography and the quirky sense of humour (Wick kills a man with a book in the films opening skirmish) all serve to make the flaws forgivable.
Impressively, it realizes this kind of frenetic yet comprehensible action so naturally that it’s deeply frustrating that so many of its peers fail to achieve anything this viscerally exciting. Having multiple characters, all interacting with each other and eloquently, though frequently messily, taking out their opponents is infinitely more entertaining than anything to be found in Avengers Endgame. Stahelski knows to try and keep the camera steady and keep the shots as long as possible for maximum impact.
The other joyful aspect of the John Wick franchise is it’s world. A bizarre combination of that feels like Tom Clancy meets Neil Gaiman. At the beginning of the film Wick enters a library and finds a secure box that does not contain a gun or a passport or money but strange relics of tremendous symbolic significance. It’s a surreal moment that bespeaks the film’s fascinating mythology. Navigating the rules that bind these cutthroats is a huge part of this franchise’s charm.
Surprisingly, considering the film builds such effective fatalistic menace in its first two acts, the film lacks a satisfying climax, instead leaving the door open for another sequel. Whilst the opportunity to experience further action sequences of this standard is somewhat exciting, it is disappointing that so little of narrative value is achieved in the film. A few more elements are introduced but nothing has really changed for Mr. Wick.
Not that these new elements aren’t entertaining! Asia Kate Dillon plays The Adjudicator, an authoritative representative of the series’ big bad. Dillon plays this role very naturally, their performance complimenting the campy overacting (or underacting in one instance) of the series’ stalwarts. Hallie Berry gives one of the most entertaining performances of her career as a fellow assassin who mucks in with Wick when the going gets tough. She manages the action with tremendous conviction. Anjellica Huston clearly has fun as the head of a Russian crime syndicate and Mark Dacascos is delightful Wicks main threat.
There is, frustratingly, the potential for something more than campy thrills here. Wick has achieved his vengeance (twice now), but continues to limp on. He is driven by an enormous will to survive and takes dozens of lives to do so, but for what? He is challenged with this several times in the film and his reply is enigmatic and interesting. I would have enjoyed a little more exploration of this incredibly selfish decision Wick has made, but perhaps that’s asking a bit much from this cheesy blockbuster.
John Wick Chapter 3 delivers in all the ways you hope it will. There’s a ridiculous Keanu Reeves performance, wonderful baletic action, some new corny characters and yet another delicious dive into this crazy little world. Nothing is really resolved or escalated, but with no Raid sequels on the horizon, perhaps it’s best that John Wick carry on his brutal journey for revenge for just a while longer.