With action films like the “John Wick” franchise, it seems that what you see is what you get. Sure, you can look deeper into the psychology of a killer or the deconstruction of masculinity through gun violence portrayed in the media, but the onus is on you to dive that deeply into the films. Surprisingly, the third entry of the franchise is a look inside the stresses of becoming a public figure with a target on your back. The reason why these films gained such a cult following was not for subtext, but for an sense of absurdity that was grounded in a middle-aged man looking for peace and solitude.
“John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum” picks up with the titular lonely killer played a third time by Keanu Reeves. The film series has grown into a stunt spectacle: Everything began in a simple place, and John Wick was grieving his recently deceased wife when a group of Russian criminals murder his puppy and then Mr. Wick enacts his revenge. These events forced John, also known as the “Baba Yega,” to return to his network of criminals and underlings in a fight for his life. The second film, “John Wick: Chapter 2,” left the antihero excommunicated and on the run from legions of killers looking to score a lucrative contract on his head. Finally, this third entry exercises all the muscles that made the first two films successful, but this time director Chad Stahelski finds a meditative approach to action that has a tendency to be fast and loud. We find ourselves watching knife fights like they’re a ballet performance and camera maneuvers that surprise with each edit into a symphony of violence. A plot that is inherently ridiculous, mixed with moody, neon lighting and a 19th century gothic aesthetic, makes for a highly original theater-going experience.
The “John Wick Franchise” distinguishes itself from its action film counterparts by striving to exist in a world that enhances the finer things, and the on-screen images reflect that world. Yet, the actions being committed are objectively despicable. It’s the “honor amongst thieves” mentality that these films abide by. It’s the hyper-stylized action that the films have become known for, and the film continues to surpass itself in unexpected ways.
There are moments that are beyond belief; in the first 10 minutes, John Wick kills an assassin with a library book and then uses a horse as a weapon. Despite carnage being the main selling point, “John Wick: Chapter 3″ is the most intriguing when we get the chance to see the mechanics of how this criminal underworld operates. Mr. Wick is essentially a celebrity in this community, everybody admires him, yet everyone has a target on its back. It’s as if people want bragging rights to his corpse. The same could be said for many social media influencers who bare the mark of being publicly shamed.
Who’s to say what the best film of the franchise may be with an ever-expanding universe and characters who enter the fold unexpectedly. New additions to the series include an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillion), who coldly enforces the rules, a fanboy assassin named Zero (Mark Dacascos), and Sofia (Halle Berry), an old friend with two very well-trained attack dogs. Each film offers a brand of escapism that heightens our sense of reality, offering an intoxicating look inside a world that exists outside of our own. Viewers who have not seen the originals may be a bit behind the curve, but those who have been on board thus far are now beholden to the franchise for life.