On the positive side, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) shoots a horse at someone. Twice. On the negative side, nobody pays to watch John Wick slowly walk through the desert. What, is he gonna slap-fight a cactus? Despite a glowing aggregate critical response, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum has some real issues. First off, that title is a nonsensical mess filled with multiple grammatical symbols and a word no one will remember. Second, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabola is a narrative nightmare largely saved by the fact that it remains the most gorgeously choreographed American action franchise in history.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Pair of Bell Ends picks up the instant the previous, reasonably titled film ended. John Wick, whose first and last name are lovers that must never be split apart, has been kicked out of the Happy Fun-time Assassin Academy and has mere minutes to escape the city. While he flees, an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) from the Guild of Calamitous Intent arrives in town to punish anyone who helped John Wick in the last movie. This means Winston (Ian McShane), who runs the Murder Motel 8, and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), who emails by pigeon, are in big doo-doo.

The first hour of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Pears and Bell Peppers is a violent delight, as our stabby hero puts all kinds of knives into all kinds of bad guy body parts. At this point, the script betrays itself a bit. All we know about John Wick is that he wanted to get out of the killin’ business because he loved his now-dead wife so much. Watching him walk through a desert to basically re-apply for work Murder Inc. and voluntarily hand over a symbol of that relationship makes no sense. Especially when the plot then pretzels itself to get him from a desert oasis to the city he just left to kill the people he was just there killing.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parallelogram forgets that the writing for an action movie should be like ideal restaurant service: it is great if it is surprisingly fun but should be wholly invisible at the very worst. How hard is it to not act in opposition to a character that has exactly one motivation? And yet, all is pretty much forgiven because every single combat sequence is a glorious display of imaginative, impossible violence. We’ve gotten to the point where characters within the John Wickiverse outright talk about how great the fight they just had was.

The promise of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parachute Pants was that he would square off against literally every professional murderer in the world. He pretty much does! However, the end is a wholly unsatisfying, cheap trick that substitutes repetition for a creative and clever expansion of the series. Anyone who has liked a John Wick movie is down to watch one every other year ad infinitum. It just shouldn’t feel like an obligation. Less punctuation and more creative assassin shenanigans, and we Wickians swear our fealty forever.

Grade = B-

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