There are people who love cinematic worldbuilding. I have nothing against these people and I kind of get it, to a point, but it’s just not for me. Which is why, for me, the second John Wick film just seemed like a lot. I prefer just kind of living in whatever cinematic world we are given and figuring it out as we go with little to no explanation.
The first Star Wars hardly explains anything – to the point that there’s a case to be made if the Force is even real or not. It’s only later, in the Prequels, that we get bogged down with backstory. The first Alien is a masterpiece. We don’t really know much about this world, but we know just enough. But now the recent Alien films want to get deeper and deeper into the mythology. Call me crazy, but just give me a spaceship full of people running from an alien.
Anyway, this is why John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum succeeds. At the end of the second film, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) had just broken the rule about never killing someone at The Continental, a hotel that acts as a safe house for anyone in attendance. This third chapter (directed by Chad Stahelski, who directed the second film and co-directed the first) picks up right where the last one left off. John Wick has been declared “excommunicado” and a large bounty has been put on his head, attracting pretty much every active assassin’s attention.
So this is where we pick up, with John Wick on the run. And that’s pretty much the plot of the entire film. I do not mean that in any sort of flippant way — that’s what this movie is and I love the fact that it’s pretty much just John Wick running for his life, stopping every so often to fight assassins. Wick’s goal on the run is to get to the Director (Anjelica Huston), who trained young John Wick and is the only one who can save him now – but, at a price. The whole thing is just relentless.
There’s a scene early in the movie that’s nothing less than tremendous — and worth the price of admission all on its own — where we see John Wick confronted by a group of people who want to kill him. This confrontation occurs in what I can only describe as a “knife store.” Now, I’ve seen movies where enemies throw knives at each other, but not quite like this, with an endless supply of knives waiting to be hurled. It’s the best action scene I’ve seen in at least the last year. (Probably more, but I don’t want to risk getting too hyperbolic.) There’s also a crazy scene in the middle of the movie involving John Wick and his friend Sofia (Halle Berry) fighting alongside two German Shepherds. It’s the second best action scene I’ve seen in at least the last year. (Probably more, but I don’t want to risk getting too hyperbolic.)
Perhaps I’m exaggerating a little about the essence of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’s straightforward plot. We do learn a bit more about Wick and we ‘re introduced to new characters from his past, but it just doesn’t feel as bogged down with worldbuilding as the previous installment. Like John Wick himself, this third chapter feels like a lean, mean, fighting machine – and, yes, it’s the best film of the franchise so far, even surpassing the first film. There are moments in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum where I thought to myself, “Well, I’ve never seen that before.”