You’d think that at a certain point, all the hundreds of thousands of assassins out there in the John Wick world would get the memo and, you know, stop trying to kill our titular man in black. After he’s brutally slaughtered so many people that it barely even registers anymore, it’s clear that nobody will ever be able to beat John Wick in a fight. And while this means that there’s plenty of relentless action in the latest chapter of this surprise action franchise (and for the inevitable future chapters as well), it also renders the whole thing a little pointless.
One of the best things about the original John Wick was the mystique of its central character. Series director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad had a lot of fun building up the myth of this feared assassin, as characters relayed wild tales of this feared “baba yaga” while preparing for their inevitable death at his hands. The dark world he came from was teased but never fully exposed, leaving us to look into John Wick’s cold hard gaze and imagine what we will. Now, through two increasingly frantic and repetitive sequels, this world has been opened up and the more we see, the less we ultimately care.
There’s much talk of rules in the latest entry and John Wick broke the cardinal one of not conducting business on Continental grounds at the end of Chapter 2 by killing crime boss Santino D’Antonio in the lobby of the New York branch hotel. Consequently, his Continental privileges have been revoked and yet another bounty has been put on his head. Meanwhile, a new character simply known as The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) appears on the scene to launch an investigation into the Continental’s actions surrounding all of this, specifically Winston (Ian McShane) and anyone else who dares give any sort of help to Mr. Wick, therefore breaking the all-important rules.
I assume all this talk about “rules and consequences” (an oft repeated refrain) is an attempt to give this comic book inspired setting a little more structure and a sense of gravitas. But is there actually any sort of believability or internal logic to this world at all? In the final twist of Chapter 2, Winston makes a call while in a crowded park with John and suddenly every person around them stops and faces them. In Chapter 3, every other person he passes on the street is an assassin ready to drop everything and fight, although there’s never any police presence and no bystanders ever seem to notice or care. Is John Wick just in the Matrix or something? With the continued presence of Laurence Fishburne, playing the king of the hobos like he’s doing Shakespeare, and the constant references and call-back quotes, maybe that’s where this is all eventually headed.
In any case, the action still remains solid and more original than what was on display in Chapter 2. Set pieces like a horse chase and a spirited fight in a knife store still deliver that expertly choreographed carnage that’s to be expected from the series at this point. While he still shoots and stabs a ton of people in the face, John has also added crotch trauma to his modus operandi all of a sudden. Halle Berry shows up for a while to admirably kick some ass alongside John on a detour to Morocco and Mark Dacascos resurfaces from DTV wonderland as a playful assassin hired to wipe out John Wick once and for all. Can he do it? I’ll give you one guess…
There’s no doubt that Keanu still owns this role, stoically brooding his way through the film like a rock star in a black suit, but there’s just nothing much for him to play anymore beyond robotic perseverance. The emotional core of the first film is long gone and so is the sense of humour, as everything is of very grave importance now, leaving him lurching from scene to scene for no other reason than because the script says so and the story must go on.
Even from the first film, the series has been the embodiment of a video game on screen, with John Wick going from level to level to fight more and more faceless bad guys and the occasional boss. It was the idiosyncrasies and details in the in-between moments, however, that really elevated it initially. With all that stripped out in favour of pure wall-to-wall mayhem, I’m afraid I’ve become all John Wicked out.