Average Star Rating (ASR): 4.16 ★'s
Stuntmen-turned-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch know the elements of a great action movie: an emotionally traumatized hero, a simple revenge plot, and loads of expertly choreographed fight sequences. By today’s action movie standards, John Wick feels rather small. It lacks the scope of the Bourne trilogy, the melodrama of the Taken series, and the budget of the Fast & Furious franchise. But rather than going big, Stahelski, Leitch, and star Keanu Reeves use this opportunity to focus in on their strengths: 30+ years in the stunt industry and a star who’s willing to get physical in the lead role. Any John Wick fan will tell you that there’s a lot of rich mythology in the world of Wick, but the first film isn’t so concerned with that. Our introduction to Reeves’ mourning assassin is just that— an introduction. It’s a movie that satisfies every origin-story itch while leaving you desperate for a sequel. ★★★★
Best Part: Our man, Keanu Reeves.
Worst Part: You know the scene :’(
John Wick: Chapter 2
The second installment in the John Wick franchise is undoubtedly one of the best sequels of all time. Picking up four days after John Wick left off, Chapter 2 finds John back in the assassin game after an old colleague returns to cash in a favor. Whereas John Wick was all about introduction and character building, Chapter 2 uses its runtime for pure world building. The mythology of Wick’s assassin world is rich with elements that are both timeless and nostalgic. Gold coins of indiscriminate value, gorgeous classical and gothic architecture, and an “IOU” system based on blood oaths all add depth to John’s neon-noir world. New additions to the cast (such as Laurence Fishburne and Common) and more immaculate fight choreography only sweeten the deal. John Wick: Chapter 2 is not a perfect movie, but it is an incredible feat of action cinema and one of the most rewatchable movies in recent memory. ★★★★½
Best Part: The expanded mythology.
Worst Part: I mean, I know it’s a nitpick, but was that rave in the Roman Forum just so they could have Keanu Reeves shoot people at a rave in the Roman Forum?
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
What’s great about the John Wick franchise so far is that each film has its own strengths. The first movie created an iconic character, the second movie created an iconic mythology, and the third movie created an iconic experience. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I feel I must express how absolutely incredible the fight sequences are in this movie. Yes, they are great in every John Wick movie, but Parabellum shows John trading gun-fu for kung-fu… and boy does it rock. For most of Parabellum, John is without his signature weapons (because of the plot or something), so he makes do with what he can find. This includes a handmade revolver, countless knives, horse hooves, his hands, and A FREAKING LIBRARY BOOK. It’s a movie that oozes cool. Expect audiences to go wild for this action. But despite my love for the John Wick experience, I have to admit that these films have flaws. Parabellum suffers from a plot that is rather elliptical, with some beats that are uncharacteristically weak. But the longer, heavier, harder, and more technical fights make up for that. The critical and cultural success of Parabellum has surely cemented John Wick as the greatest action franchise of this generation. ★★★★
Best Part: The addition of the hilarious and high-spirited Mark Dacascos as Zero, as well as his Shinobi sidekicks, played by Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman from The Raid franchise.
Worst Part: The weird plot stuff that ties all the fighting together… it just doesn’t hold up quite as nicely as Chapter 2 on the story front.