Reviewed by: David Cook
Professional assassins / bounty-hunting killers/murderers
About MURDER in the Bible
Films that attempt to make murder and killing cool and/or stylish
Keanu Reeves … John Wick
Halle Berry … Sofia
Lance Reddick … Charon
Laurence Fishburne … Bowery King
Anjelica Huston … The Director
Ian McShane … Winston
Asia Kate Dillon … The Adjudicator
Jerome Flynn … Berrada
Hiroyuki Sanada …
Robin Lord Taylor … Administrator
Jason Mantzoukas … Tick Tock Man
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See all »
Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films
“Every action has consequences.”
I am a late arrival to the “John Wick” train. So in preparation for the newest installment of this action trilogy, I recently caught up with “John Wick” and “John Wick: Chapter 2.” Normally, I would not consider other movies while reviewing a certain movie, but in this case I find it necessary. For that reason, there will be some SPOILERS regarding the first two films.
In the first movie, we are introduced to the titular character John Wick (Keanu Reeves) just days after his wife has passed away from an illness. In her final act of love, she gifted John with a puppy—a companion with whom he can mourn. Then in a robbery gone wrong—John is beaten, his car is stolen, and the puppy is killed. Here, we begin to learn of the legend of John Wick. He was once a dangerous assassin and a member of a secret society of criminals with very strict rules and regulations.
Before we ever see him in action, we hear the stories and lore that earned him the nickname The Boogeyman. Everyone fears this man—mob bosses, the police force, and even the other assassins. When we finally see John Wick in action, he does not disappoint. He is a meticulous fighter combining martial arts with precise gun work. With nothing to lose, John Wick is an unstoppable force.
In the first “John Wick” the violence is quick and intense with a feeling of purpose and determination. We understand John’s motivation, and we are thrust into his underground world cloaked with history and intrigue. We are introduced to interesting characters with even more interesting codes of conduct. In “Chapter 2,” everything is intensified—the violence, the locations, and the assassins’ guidelines.
As a result, we begin to lose a bit of the intrigue and intimacy that made the first movie stand apart from other action films. John’s motivation becomes blurred as the body count rises. The violence seems less purposeful and more “cool.” Finally, when John breaks a cardinal rule, he is excommunicated with a huge bounty placed on his head. It is at this point that the “small” fraternity of assassins that was thought to be a prestigious guild reveals itself as commonplace and prevalent. This is where the franchise loses itself. Practically everyone is an assassin, so at every turn, a new faceless character is trying to kill John Wick. It takes the ridiculous, yet entertaining, world of the first movie and pushes it to a mind-numbing extreme. This is where “Chapter 3” begins.
“John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum” follows Wick as he tries to survive long enough to clear his name and right his wrongs. That is the extent of the plot—seriously. That’s it. This simplistic storyline allows every minute of the 2+ hours of runtime to be filled with violence. There is nothing else of importance to note in this movie. It is completely void of any content other than bloodshed, and it’s a different style of brutality than its predecessors.
Though the violence of the first film was certainly gratuitous, it felt necessary. In “Chapter 3,” the killing is used for entertainment and, at times, even humor. It no longer showcases the skills of an assassin but focuses on the pain of the victim. With so much carnage, I began to grow numb to the countless deaths and even became bored with the nonstop action.
However, there are a couple moments of extreme gore that will sicken any viewer—a bludgeoning with a library book, a close-up stabbing through an eye, and a character purposely cutting off his own finger.
Along with the incessant killing, there are multiple uses of the f-word and s**t, a couple scantily clad women, belly dancers, and a shirtless man, but that pales in comparison to the endless bloodbath.
I’d like to think the “John Wick” films were grounded with a deeper meaning—perhaps a metaphor for the sins of our past and our need for forgiveness and repentance, however as I finish the 3rd chapter, it appears to be dealing with nothing more than death and destruction. As each film progresses, the filmmakers must compete with themselves to intensify the method in which each death occurs. As a result, the characters fade behind the cruelty—leaving only carnage. It makes me think of Proverbs 13:2 ESV,
“From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good, but the desire of the treacherous is for violence.”
There are some positive attributes in this film: Keanu Reeves (“The Matrix,” “Speed”) does a fine job as the leading man, the cinematography is beautiful with its use of neon colors, and Ian McShane (“Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Deadwood”) and Laurence Fishburne (“The Matrix”, “Ant-Man and the Wasp”) make every scene better in their supporting roles.
However, I can’t help but question the morality of a film like this in 2019. It fetishes guns and the power they possess. Hollywood seems to be quick to step on their soapbox to preach against the 2nd Amendment, but even quicker to cash in on the success of a movie franchise like “John Wick” which makes guns its lead character. I think each person will have to decide—is this purely entertainment? or does it glamorize gun violence?
To compare, 2017’s “You Were Never Really Here” was an extremely violent movie, but the characters had to accept the ramifications of their actions. In “John Wick: Chapter 3,” neither the characters nor the audience ever see the result of the brutality—a dangerous perspective of violence.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.