It is not hyperbolic to state that John Wick has become THE action icon of the 2010s. As Blockbuster flicks are dominated by superheroes, lightsabers, and blue cat people, Keanu Reeves has taken up the mantle left behind by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone, and Jean Claude Van Damme. Yes, the Fast & Furious are popular action films as well. But it’s the John Wick franchise that most closely resembles the overtly macho, bloody Schwarzenegger films of yesteryear. At a time where Hollywood can appear too homogeneous on the surface, John Wick is doing his part to break up the monotony. But how long can that last before franchise fatigue sets in?
Well that day won’t be today as John Wick Chapter 3 proves that our modern day gunslinger still has some more bullets in the pistol, packing enough punch to be a worthy sequel for this increasingly popular franchise. However, if you haven’t seen the first 2 films and plan on coming in cold, you may run into some trouble. That is because Chapter 3 starts immediately after Chapter 2 ends. We find Wick (Keanu Reeves) running for his life and against time. The Continental is putting a $14 million bounty on his head, and the hunt begins at midnight. Wick has barely enough time to take a breather and get stitched up before the chaos begins. He can’t even catch a shave or a cup of coffee for the long night.
Wick, already worn down and exhausted from the previous film, has set before him a scenario usually found in video games – defeat as many bad guys as possible in this open world without dying. While the story is simplistic, director Chad Stalhelski knows you’re here for the action and there is plenty. It is a barrage of bare knuckle fights, knife wielding mayhem and gun-toting sorcery. The first big action scene features a brutal fight, in a damn library of all places, as Wick does battle with a gargantuan brute who could’ve stunt doubled for Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride.
Soon, we see Wick dueling with knives, and riding horses for escape. We’ve come a long way from a man simply exacting vengeance for his dead dog; this is a city wide game of survival. One may critique the ability for Wick to continue fighting at this pace without much recovery time, but this is the type of action flick where you have to leave realism at the door (no seriously, he survives an absurd amount of catastrophes).
While Wick is running around like a madman, cracking skulls and chopping off fingers, most of the character work is locked down by an entertaining and smartly utilized supporting cast. Ian Mcshane is back as the manager of the Concierge Hotel, his gruff demeanor seasoning his shady intentions. Asia Kate Dillon plays a no nonsense villain, the representative of the mysterious “High Table”. Her performance adds to the absurdity of just how organized this crime world is, as each demand she makes to have someone killed has to go through the proper channels first. Usually in gangster movies, if someone needs to be killed they just get killed; here, you have to fill out the paperwork first.
Laurence Fishburne and Halle Berry help fill out the cast, as close allies of Wick. Sofia (Berry) gets an extended section where we delve into her complex backstory, including what she owes to Wick and why she can’t return to her normal life. And Fishburne is outpacing Samuel L. Jackson for the year when it comes to expletive-ridden dialogue.
In short, John Wick Chapter 3 hits all the familiar beats that fans of the series have come to expect. It isn’t as good as the original simply because it lacks the thematic motivation that originally fueled this character. But as a film that features non-stop action, some self-aware humor, and an oddball group of characters, this entry is quite the crowd pleaser.
There is plenty of teasing for a 4th film, surprising no one. This series is very successful at the box office, so we’re likely to see John Wick for as long as Keanu Reeves feels like doing his own stunts. I just hope the franchise continues to be as inventive as possible as so much of the current action climate is riding on it. Gone are the days of the 80s and 90s action heroes; for some action junkies, it often feels like John Wick is the best we have left.