Movie Review – John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum

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Of all the posters and artwork on the walls in my areas of my home, only three feature images of actual humans.

The first is an original Hong Kong gravestone print of Bruce Lee’s gravestone (though he is actually buried in Seattle, just a few hours from where I live).

The second is an authenticated poster of all the original signatures of all the action heroes of the Expendables movies, including Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Statham, Snipes, Lundgren, and so on. It was something I looked for a long time before actually getting it. I actually had it shipped in from Nevada several years ago. It cost me a pretty penny.

The last one is a picture of John Wick, right behind my head in my office as I type this, bruised and battered, surrounded by a myriad of guns pointed at his head.

That image has significance to me on several levels. The biggest philosophical one is that it resonated with me, seeing myself in it. So many times I was alone, fighting for what I wanted, with seemingly the entire world against me. But like John Wick, I kept moving forward regardless of the difficulties and pain I endured.

The more surface-level meaning for that picture is that the John Wick movies are a light in the mired darkness of today’s dreadful, milquetoast, mostly left-wing, childish, watered-down, poorly written movies of modern-day Hollywood as compared to the creative heyday Hollywood had years ago before the collapse of the West began in earnest.

Unlike almost all other movies today (outside of the Marvel movies perhaps), the John Wick movies are A) actual action movies and B) actually good.

No jump cuts. No close-up shots where you can’t see what the hell is going on. No shaky cam. No over-focusing on tiny women who easily beat the shit out of giant men who outweigh them by 150 pounds.

Good editing. Wide shots. Long takes. Real actors doing real shit instead of obvious stuntmen. Fantastically choreographed action scenes, as good as many Asian action movies (though Asian action movies are still better overall). Actors who have extensive martial arts and/or stunt work experience (at least for the most part). At least an effort to respect the fact that guns need to be reloaded often (though it still fudges on this occasionally). Acting that isn’t bad, and in many cases, actually good.

The John Wick movies are a nice reminder of what can be accomplished by people who actually give a shit about action films. It’s a shame we don’t have more of these films like we did in days past, but at least we have these.

The first John Wick movie was fantastic, and an exemplar of all the items I listed above. It also took place in a world that was unique and interesting, a world I wanted to know more about, rather than the typical bland world in which most action movies take place.

John Wick: Chapter 2 was not as good as the first, but still very good. It’s not the kind of movie I’ll bother to re-watch any time soon (unlike the first one), but still a great action movie. That alone makes it special today.

The third movie, John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum, is much better than the second and perhaps as good as the first. I’m not sure on that last part… I think I need to give it a little more time to sink in. But the fact that I’m saying it could be as good as the first is high praise.

This movie is a must-see for any action movie fan and will probably be the best pure action movie of 2019 (not that it’s a very high bar these days). It has more action, and longer action, than either of the previous two movies. The stunt work is probably the best stunt work I’ve ever seen (though Mad Max: Fury Road still ranks). The fight choreography is better than the second movie and probably better than the first, and again, that’s high praise.

I was also delighted to see that they used real martial arts-trained action stars from Asian cinema as key villains. These include Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman, the amazing Indonesian villains from The Raid movies. (They were the two guys at the end with the curved blades.) Mark Dacascos is the happy-go-lucky bald villain, a staple of B action movies going all the way back to the early 90s, whose father trained with Bruce Lee and was a friend of my father.

Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne are both amazing, as always. I would watch entire movies based on just those two characters. Good shit. Anjelica Huston was fun to see too; I’ve always liked her. Asia Kate Dillon was a little too much, but her acting somewhat matched the vibe of the movie, and at least she didn’t fight, thank god.

Halle Berry, still hot as hell at age 53, did fight, but at least most of her fighting involved her shooting people instead of kicking their asses bare-handed, so I can forgive that. Her fight scenes with the two dogs were really fun. When the movie was over and I walked out at the end with Pink Firefly (she actually likes action movies and wanted to see this movie; a nice bonus with her I wasn’t planning on) I actually wanted to get a dog because of those scenes. (No, no, I’m not getting a dog. My international lifestyle isn’t compatible with that kind of thing. I’m just fantasizing.)

That brings us to Keanu Reeves. Oh, Keanu. The most accurate joke I’ve ever heard about Keanu is that he’s a terrible actor but he’s such a nice guy that we don’t care. I think that’s correct on both counts. I’ve been watching Keanu since the late 80s, way back when he was in Dangerous Liaisons, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Parenthood. I’ve gotta be honest. Unless he’s playing a teenage dumbass, his acting pretty much sucks. But you know what? Yeah, he’s such a pleasant person to watch, and he tries so hard, and many of his movies are really fun, that I forgive the guy. I don’t think there is any other actor I can say that about (he’s shitty, but I really like him).

I say “many” of his movies are fun because many are not. He’s done a lot of really, really bad films. I watched Siberia a few months back, and holy shit, it sucked balls. Even the Matrix movies are uneven. The first one is a masterpiece, the second one had fantastic action scenes but the story and setting didn’t make much sense, and the third one was pretty lame. John Wick is Keanu’s only consistently good series of films (and yeah, that includes the Bill and Ted sequel which was crappy as compared to the first one).

You may have seen the YouTube videos of Keanu prepping for these movies by doing firearms and martial arts training. That really is him doing much of those stunts. Other than Tom Cruise, Keanu is the only actor in mainstream Hollywood who puts that much work into the stunt work of his movies. He deserves credit for that, and he deserves all the credit he receives in making these John Wick films so good.

Credit is also due to Chad Stahelski, who directed all three of these movies, and Derek Kolstad, who wrote all three. My understanding is that these guys are both former stuntmen, which would help explain why the action in these movies is so fantastic.

As I’ve said so many times before, when you put a movie in the hands of a creative team who actually gives a shit about the genre they’re in and they like the genre they’re in, then the odds are good you’ll get a decent film. This would be the opposite of the Star Trek TV series right now (Star Trek Discovery) which is clearly written by people who hate Star Trek and wish it was something else, and those behind the current Star Wars movies, who clearly think Star Wars is a silly, misogynistic, outdated story that needs to be “updated” into something radically different.

The only other action films of the John Wick caliber right now are the Mission Impossible movies (which are decent, but not as gritty and awesome as John Wick) and the Fast and the Furious franchise, (which has devolved into goofy, live-action cartoons geared towards mostly Asian audiences, not unlike the current Star Wars movies).

The John Wick movies really do stand alone right now, at least in American cinema. I wish they didn’t, but they do. My understanding was that they only planned on making three of these movies, but it looks like they may do a fourth one now. I hope they do, and I can’t believe I’m actually saying that about a movie franchise these days.

In a sea of TV and movie bullshit, at least we have John Wick.

Go see it.

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  • Eric C Smith
    Posted at 07:38 am, 23rd May 2019

    It’s unfortunate how much I view and consider movies akin to eating ice cream or worse. Particularly action movies, so I appreciate this article showing how when done right with attention and respect to a genre, it can actually be worth something a little more…and that its more the times and the people making them……not necessarily the act of going to see a movie itself.

  • Vagabond
    Posted at 10:08 am, 23rd May 2019

    Can you make Avengers: Endgame review? I remember Infinity War review and would really like to know your opinion on Endgame.

  • Caleb Jones
    Posted at 10:53 am, 23rd May 2019

    I thought about it but I don’t want to fill this blog up with movie reviews. I guess I’ll consider it, or perhaps talk about it as a subject of a greater topic.

  • CrabRangoon
    Posted at 02:09 pm, 23rd May 2019

    Excited to see this one. John Wick movies are some of the very few action movies I enjoy these days. I typically just revisit the oldies for my fix(Aliens, Predator, Conan), bad special effects and all. Goes to show how great the characters and stories were that you don’t care even now how dated he effects look.

    I love the martial arts movie feel of these and high body counts-like the Raid and Ip-Man.

    I’d also be curious for your take on Endgame. I enjoyed, a bit less than Infinity War though and it was quite long. I’m also not a big fan of time travel tropes to overcome the problems. I am impressed that they killed off a couple main characters-when all the heroes survive is just lowers the stakes too much (although I knew they’d bring back all the “snapped deaths”). Oh also the the end battle was pretty badass, apart from the now Hollywood required feminism where all the female characters assemble in one scene, had to eye roll on that part.

    The new Terminator trailer just dropped too-looks like a steaming pile. They need to just stop with those already. They’ve been garbage since T2.

  • Caleb Jones
    Posted at 10:45 pm, 23rd May 2019

    I love the martial arts movie feel of these and high body counts-like the Raid and Ip-Man.

    Both great. As I said in the article, Asian action movies are where its at right now.

    The new Terminator trailer just dropped too-looks like a steaming pile.

    Yes. It looks like ass. But they’ve already destroyed that franchise along with all the others. There’s no resuscitating it at this point.

    They need to just stop with those already. They’ve been garbage since T2.

    I actually sort of liked T3, but it was really bad as compared to the first two, yes.

    And Terminator Genisys is great if you turn the movie off right after they kill the T-1000. 🙂

  • david
    Posted at 02:48 am, 26th May 2019

    I didnt understand the hype about any of these, but I never miss a Keanu film. Maybe its because the Matrix was so groundbreaking, everyone in it will have my undying respect. That being said John Wick 3 was my favorite. The supporting characters and weird universe really shined in this one. There are a few scenes choreographed so well, it seems keanu himself is a master martial artist… then there are blatant fantasy scenarios where i feel like something supernatural is happening, and it even has some comedic parts. Even many of the kills were really unique. It seemed to give homage to Ip man, as well as that “endless enemies” feeling from Assault on Precinct 13, and then kind of reminded me of the weird underworld of Running Scared or even Sin City, but without the CGI. I was really hoping that butch chick would get killed tho lol.

  • dc88
    Posted at 12:18 am, 27th May 2019

    The last two movies I paid to see were John Wick 3 and John Wick 2. The next I’ll probably pay to see is John Wick 4…which is confirmed to release two years in May 2021. I agree there’s so much garbage out there, so I simply just wait and download them when the HD versions are out.

    I really appreciate the realism in many of the scenes, although stylized for our entertainment. I’ve seen some YouTube clips with SWAT trainers and spec op operators breaking down John Wick scenes and so many of the movie’s action scenes incorporate the same tactics our armed forces are trained to use. Keanu definitely puts in a huge amount of effort and dedication to prepare. He’s definitely not the best actor, but then again JW doesn’t have a lot of speaking scenes and the character is a no BS guy. I’m not watching for the acting. Hands down he is a great action star in this franchise….that’s what I’m watching.

    There’s a few silly things like the bullet proof fabric suit and what started to bother me a bit was the amount of beatings he took and was still able to keep going. You could basically combine all three movies and only like a week has passed by. After being shot and stabbed so many times, the guy needs a break to recover.

    I believe they are also expanding the John Wick universe with a TV series about The Continental. I’m crossing my fingers this doesn’t end up milking a franchise that they ultimately destroy.

  • Greg
    Posted at 05:44 am, 28th May 2019

    Despite the Wick films becoming increasingly ridiculous, while you always get fantastic action in these films, there’s no way anyone could survive the shit he goes through in these films, so he’s basically a videogame character. I found JW3’s ending was anticlimactic and didn’t have much of a payoff. I hope Rambo 5 is good, considering Stallone’s current age.

  • Caleb Jones
    Posted at 12:17 pm, 28th May 2019

    there’s no way anyone could survive the shit he goes through in these films, so he’s basically a videogame character.

    True, but that’s pretty much all action movies. Some suspension of disbelief is required.

    The big problem with JW3 is how he survived that fall at the end. That was really, really stupid.

  • Caleb Jones
    Posted at 12:27 pm, 28th May 2019

    Jesus. Just seen the trailer for Terminator 6.


    Yeah. That looked like ass. But as you said, Terminator died (or should I say, was murdered) as a franchise a very long time ago along with most other 80s franchises.

  • Lazy Blitz, a Storm of Openers!
    Posted at 10:40 am, 29th May 2019

    I guess I don’t like action movies. I mean the pure action part. I watched the 1 a few years ago and the 2 yesterday. I recognize it is well choregraphed and all the other good things you said, but many times I just get bored during the seemingly never ending fights. I even took out my phone several times out of boredom. The story is quite dull for me, almost nothing happens but pure action.

    However I love first person shooters video games and I had a blast playing Doom VFR in VR. I have heard there was an iMax VR arcade with John Wick, this could be really fun killing all those ennemies with all these guns if they did it well. Watching these movie is sort of like watching a replay of someone playing a photorealistic FPS.

    In john Wick 2, I wondered what it the value of the gold coins, I found some people speculated it is 3000 to 5000USD per coin. Also I wondered if the thin life jaclet material of his suit actually exists in reality.

    Same problem with the avengers end game, I get bored during the fight scenes. But at least there is a lot of Sci-Fi elements.

  • Caleb Jones
    Posted at 11:37 am, 30th May 2019

    I guess I don’t like action movies. I mean the pure action part. I watched the 1 a few years ago and the 2 yesterday. I recognize it is well choregraphed and all the other good things you said, but many times I just get bored during the seemingly never ending fights. I even took out my phone several times out of boredom. The story is quite dull for me, almost nothing happens but pure action.

    Yes, that’s exactly what separates true action fans from normal people. Most people get bored with wall-to-wall action. I actually prefer it, as long as it’s well done.

  • Greg
    Posted at 03:54 pm, 30th May 2019
  • Lazy Blitz, a Storm of Openers!
    Posted at 08:49 pm, 30th May 2019

    True. I really enjoyed Sicario 1 and 2. There is a lot of action but it is not pure action, and the action scenes don’t feel endless.

  • Tim
    Posted at 09:55 pm, 30th May 2019

    Hey Caleb, if you haven’t already checked it out, you should watch Altered Carbon ( on Netflix. It’s not wall-to-wall action like the John Wick series, but it’s a great cyberpunk-noir series, and I think it would be right up your alley. The action sequences are really well done and James Purefoy just chews the scenery every time he’s onscreen (if you’ve ever seen The Following, you know exactly how engaging he is). Plus, Martha Higareda, who plays one of the female leads, is smoking hot.

    It does have some of the “girl power” fight scenes in certain places, but they do a pretty good job of explaining them (two of the characters basically have superpowers, and the lady cop only really does well against civilians and one of the other women), and it doesn’t take away from the rest of the show too much.

    Bottom line, you should definitely look into it.

  • POB
    Posted at 10:06 am, 31st May 2019

    I went to see it last wednesday by myself (my brother was coming too but had to cancel last minute). Could not agree more with your review! JW3 is fun, creative and a blast for us action fans!

    Anyway, I really enjoyed Endgame and though it was awesome, but creative as it is, even Marvel cannot escape some weird PC crap (Fat Thor? That cringey all female girl power shot during the final battle? Why???).

  • Eric C Smith
    Posted at 11:08 am, 7th June 2019

    lol yea @PB had to forgive those moments because iron mans one liner right afterwards gave me a shot of excitement that was overall epic. I should of gone when there was less of a crowd because of the cheering in certain moments. I thought fat thor made sense once he started wielding both legendary weapons and the viking themes were accentuated. Anyways…!

    Saw Jw3 thank you.

    They should put John wick in mortal kombat games. That’s how action packed it is. I wish the MK movies went that way. Trying to make a story line about a game thats about fighting smh.

    I jump out of my seat for moves like that.

    Or making robot and monster movies with less humans involved if possible. lol

  • INTJ
    Posted at 02:03 pm, 24th May 2024

    I must admit that I enjoy the John Wick franchise although its mainly nicely choregraphed ballet rather than combat and I though you would observe that Wick’s life driven and his ability for happiness is consumed with what you call Oneitis preventing him living a proper A2 existence. An he has a car – which I thought you wouldn’t approve of although the AI generated cut where he goes from place to place in an Uber is less engaging.

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