At the end of “John Wick: Chapter 2,” hired-assassin, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), shoots an annoyingly smug assassin on the consecrated grounds of the Continental Hotel — a no-no. Wick is declared Ex-Communicado, or rogue, which results in every assassin in the world chasing him.
“John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum” begins a few seconds after the previous installment. Wick did get an hour long headstart from boss Winston, the head of the film’s ingeniously-created intelligence community. That hour doesn’t do much, though, as once that clock hits its 60th minute, a blaze of handguns, infinite bullets, and, most importantly, head shots come to us like a furious freight train. With a $14 million bounty on his head, Wick needs to find a way to turn over the Ex-Communicado title which has been stamped on his tuchus.
Dialogue is secondary in ‘Parabellum,’ but when it does appear, the film drags — there is never as clear of an interest in the unsophisticated plot as there is in watching expertly choreographed action courtesy of director Chad Stahelski, one of the top action directors in the game. Halle Berry shows up as a former compatriot of Wick’s; she helps him out for a bit, with her excellent martial arts skills, shooting accuracy, and the rabid German hounddogs who nastily attack the bad guys at every corner.
However visually stimulating it may be, this third chapter in the series barely shakes off the overall sense of deja vu. And yet, if this 'Wick' lacks the fresh bite of the second chapter, its barrage of choreographic chaos is noteworthy enough.
The 54-year-old Reeves is more than up to this new gruelingly physical challenge. This is another impressively skillful and convincing showcase of physical theater from him. However, ‘Parabellum’ feels relentlessly overstuffed, to the point where the incredibly silly amount of head shots in this film, numbering in the hundreds no doubt, becomes numbing. It doesn’t help that the film clocks in at a staggeringly unnecessary 131 minutes. Stahelski seems to have set himself up to outdo Thai action groundbreaker, “The Raid,” in terms of non-stop action set-pieces. The problem is that the genre has already been done to death at this point in Hollywood, especially in Stahelski’s own “John Wick: Chapter 2,” which still remains by far, the best film of the trilogy. If “Chapter 2” felt more like art, in how it made every single scene effortlessly flow into a single creative entity, then “Chapter 3” is more messy, with its hyper-saturated Instagram-feed-like visuals, a tonally off narrative and the nagging sense of deja vu sprinkling all throughout its slickly-rendered bravado action. The climactic brawl in ‘Parabellum,’ yet another riff on the house of mirrors sequence that ended the previous film, is also too familiar, too overcooked, overstylized if you will, to end a film that desperately needs to keep its best for last. In the case of ‘Parabellum’ you can see highlight-reel action sprinkled throughout its 2+ hour runtime, but this film turns out to be the first ‘John Wick’ movie to show signs of staleness slowly creeping into its ADD-fueled ballet of bullets. [B-/C+]