When you head to the theater to see John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, you hopefully know that you should prepare for a fantastical world of hitmen and bodyguards with some rules and lots of violence.
Lots and lots of violence.
Over the course of the first two movies of this franchise, the creators have done a good job of establishing John Wick, the retired hitman who lost his wife to cancer and then is brought back into the game when someone attacks his home and, most importantly, kills his dog.
And it should be noted that John Wick himself broke one of the rules in the last movie, having killed someone on one of the neutral properties where the hitmen are not supposed to attack, kill or maim. And this movie picks up almost immediately after the end of the second film, as John Wick is disavowed and a large bounty is placed on his head.
Review of John Wick 3
Now the thing about John Wick 3 is that it feels like something that exists in pop culture but that we haven’t seen on the big screen yet: horde mode. Now, if you don’t know what horde mode is, it is a particular kind of fight in video games. Games like Gears of War have a horde mode, where basically the effort is to survive as long as you can as wave after wave of bad guys come and ammunition gets less and less easily obtained. It is a fun exercise that tests your skill and experience until you die.
And it should be noted that John Wick is excellent at surviving. Large parts of this movie are Wick fighting the horde in lots of different circumstances and situations. From the get go, John Wick 3 has an incredible chase sequence throughout the streets of New York, just as the bounty is announced and then enacted on Wick. But out of that, we also get some better sense of who Wick is.
This movie isn’t just 3-4 horde mode fights; it is also a deeper dive into both Wick and his background and the world of the hitmen and assassins that he is a part of. It is very well done. But that isn’t to say that it isn’t clumsy in some places.
Halle Berry plays an assassin that Wick runs to for help and, honestly, it feels like just a set-up for a different horde mode adventure with a different location and Halle Berry’s dogs. And all of this is even more troubling when you realize that when faced with imminent death, this is the one place where he thinks he should have run. (And, admittedly, the dogs and their work in the fight are pretty awesome.)
And like any good video game, the hordes grow increasingly challenging. At the end, there is almost a level up mechanic where Wick and his associates cannot use the same tactics and have to figure out a new way and new tools to defeat the horde. And when all is said and done, John Wick 4 is set up fairly well.
So, if you know ahead of time that you will be watching a film that might be trying to set the kill count record on screen, then John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum may be worth checking out…But do not expect much in the way of innovative plot twists or storylines.