Yeah, we’re thinkin’ he’s back. This past Friday, the world’s greatest assassin, John Wick, returned to theaters in John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum. The previous sequel hinted at all-out war, and that’s exactly what we got: more than two hours of action and just enough dialogue to keep things together. Now that the Ringer staff has caught their breath, here are their thoughts on the movie.
1. What is your tweet-length review of John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum?
David Lara: John Wick’s puppy revenge tour goes international.
Lindsay Zoladz: Anjelica was right: Even better than Poms, baby!
Miles Surrey: This is action movie nirvana, and we don’t deserve it. Parabellum cements John Wick as one of the best action franchises, maybe of all time? No, I’m not being hyperbolic: HE USED A HORSE’S HIND LEGS TO KILL TWO PEOPLE!
Sean Fennessey: We’ve been living with John Wick for five years, while less than one week of his life has transpired on screen. More franchises should compress time like this. Then again, no other franchise has Keanu.
Andrew Gruttadaro: John Wick killed an NBA player with a book, and the entire theater broke out into raucous laughter. Good movie.
Alison Herman: More action movies should exist for the sole purpose of putting Keanu Reeves on a horse.
Shaker Samman: John Wick broke a guy’s neck with a book ... and then there were 120 more minutes.
Shea Serrano: I’m at the courthouse right now filing papers in the hopes that a judge rules in favor of making Keanu Reeves marry me and father our children.
2. What was the best moment of the movie?
Phayer: The knife fight in the antique shop. Wait, no: Mark Dacascos’s character’s announcing he’s a huge fan of John Wick. OK, no, it’s John Wick saying “Guns. Lots of guns.” Ugh, no—it’s the knife fight. OK FINE ALL OF IT.
Herman: When John and his opponent each take a beat to turn away from each other and check out the antique knife arsenals behind them; also, when the twins (briefly) knock down John and he throws up some “give me a second” hands while he gets up. John Wick is a good franchise because of its action sequences; it’s a great one because of the small, hilarious grace notes inside of them.
Samman: Mr. Wick’s turning to one Boban Marjanovic and asking whether he “really wanted to do this” before beating the stuffing out of him with a hardcover book.
Gruttadaro: Above everything, when John’s dog was so happy to see him upon his return to the Continental.
Zoladz: I’m sure that the never-ending antique knife fight, the Lady From Shanghai–esque mirror sequence, and the part where he killed Boban with a library book will all get their due love. So allow me to shout out the STABLES FIGHT SCENE, in which John Wick knows exactly where to kick a horse so said horse will swiftly kick a man to death. That was tight.
Lara: Finding out that you can break someone’s neck using Russian literature.
Surrey: Where to begin? The worldbuilding gets more absurd, with Asia Kate Dillon’s joining Jeremy Strong’s character in Serenity as an actual manifestation of rules; the use of tactical dogs with a resurgent Halle Berry; Dacascos plays a villain who also happens to be John Wick’s biggest fan, who just wants John to admit they had a kickass fight; Boban gets summarily dispatched via library book; John Wick falls off a fucking skyscraper, and the only thing it does is piss him off.
This is a special franchise.
Serrano: The whole entire movie. The mega knife fight. The horse fight. The motorcycle fight. The fight that the dogs participated in. The Adjudicator. Zero breaking character and telling John how excited he is to be near him. The guys from The Raid fighting John. The thing where John and Zero kept vanishing while they were fighting. The tease of the upcoming war between John and the High Table. More, more, more, more, more.
Fennessey: Halle Berry unleashing her dogs in Riyadh on several dozen goons attempting to protect the coinmaster (?). As director Chad Stahelski told me, dogs don’t know the difference between rehearsal and when cameras are rolling; they also don’t know how to act. They just attack. Imagine how difficult it must have been to choreograph, stage, execute, and edit that sequence. This is the kind of thing that separates John Wick from every other action franchise. Sometimes you get an A for effort.
3. What was your least favorite part of the film?
Gruttadaro: BRONN SHOT A DOG.
Surrey: I don’t understand this question.
Phayer: When the ballerina ripped off her toenail. Gross.
Herman: You’re really gonna put Anjelica Huston in a John Wick movie and not let her commit one (1) grisly murder? Corollary: You’re really gonna establish that John Wick graduated from ballerina assassin academy and not have him do one (1) plié?
Fennessey: Needed more Boban.
Samman: When John Wick slo-mo stabbed a dude through the eye. I don’t do eye stuff.
Zoladz: Other than any time a dog was in peril? I’m going to go with any time the Adjudicator had a speaking part—I needed a more interesting villain, sorry!
Serrano: My what? No thank you. Instead, let me tell you one more thing that I liked a lot: The scene near the end of the movie where we finally got the John Wick/The Raid crossover moment. During that fight, the two guys beat up John pretty good and actually had a moment where they could’ve killed him. They didn’t, though—instead they made some small talk and let him get up, and then they all started fighting again. I think the decision to do that was a sneaky and creative way for the director of John Wick 3 to honor The Raid and The Raid 2 as the two movies that have some of the best fight scenes ever filmed. I think he was saying, “Yes. We know about The Raid series. We respect and admire The Raid series.”
4. How many people do you think John Wick killed?
Serrano: Somewhere between six and 600.
Lara: As per John Wick movie average, Wick killed roughly 120 to 200 people.
Gruttadaro: 234—90 percent of whom were shot in the face at least three times.
Phayer: Gotta be triple digits, no? Imagine if John Wick and Arya Stark teamed up …
Surrey: He apparently killed 77 people in the first movie, and another 128 in the second. I’m going to say just north of 128? The amount of redshirts who died in the Casablanca shoot-out was larger than my graduating high school class, but it’s important to remember that Halle Berry was delivering a good chunk of those kills herself.
Herman: To quote another story of ruthless carnage, the limit does not exist!
5. What was the best animal-related sequence in John Wick: Chapter 3?
Samman: When John reunited with his dog at the Continental!
Surrey: The part with the two Belgian Malinois for sure. We’ve seen dogs play basketball and soccer real good, but their use in the Morocco setpiece was like nothing ever put to film. It was so cool, and the perfect extension of John Wick’s dog-loving ethos.
Gruttadaro: John Wick knows exactly where you have to tap a horse to make it kick out its hind legs and kill a guy, Don Draper’s–dad-style.
Lara: John Wick’s using the horses in the back to kill his foes.
Phayer: Watching John Wick ride a horse through Brooklyn was an iconic moment, but the fight scene in the stables was just as great. I have a minor fear of horses, and this was a great reminder of why you never stand behind them.
Fennessey: Canine warfare, for sure.
Zoladz: When he puts the pup in a cab and gives the driver extra to make sure he gets to the hotel safely! That was so sweet. I wish dogs could understand movies just so they could fully comprehend the John Wick franchise.
Herman: When Halle Berry endangers the life of her child because Ser Bronn of the Blackwater shot—not killed! shot!—her dog, and John responds: “I get it.”
Serrano: It has to be the part when Halle Berry’s dog gets shot and Halle Berry goes fucking nuts and kills everyone. Then she apologizes to John for losing control. And John looks at her and says, “I get it.” It’s the single funniest moment of Keanu’s career, and also just a remarkable instance of a movie high-fiving itself. I loved it. (Also, SHE MADE SURE THE DOGS WERE WEARING BULLETPROOF VESTS. Halle Berry is the best dog mom I have ever seen.)
6. Grade Boban Marjanovic’s performance as Ernest.
Lara: A+ because he said fuck the 6 p.m. start time, I want to get this money now; also, his name is Ernest, and his death was the perfect appetizer to kick off the film.
Phayer: I’d give Boban a A-. His performance as Ernest was significantly better than whatever he was doing in the Conference semis.
Herman: Good, but not necessarily worth ruining what appears to be a very well preserved first edition for. What kind of a society doesn’t take care of its Russian folklore?
Zoladz: 87/87 Bobans (one for each inch of his height.) Some friends and I were discussing before the movie how John Wick might kill Boban, and one friend suggested, “with something very small.” She was not wrong! In conclusion, 87/87 Bobans, go Sixers.
Fennessey: B+. I liked the symmetry of Wick dispatching the biggest bad in the opening moments of the film; Boban remembered his lines.
Serrano: He was legitimately good. I thought we were headed toward one of those instances where he was gonna be in the movie for a beat or two, like what they did with the sumo guy in John Wick 2. But no, he has a full scene with actual dialogue and everything. And he fucking nailed it.
Gruttadaro: A+ job, from his ability to fake-read a book to his full-palming of Keanu Reeves’s head to his kicking to his eating of said book to his death, in which his neck was broken over that same book. This scene happens about five minutes into the film—what a way to kick things off.
Surrey: A+. He was there to be a literal giant obstacle for Wick to deal with, and if you cameo in a John Wick movie, the highest honor you can possibly receive is a really creative death from the man himself. The Baba Yaga broke his damn neck with a library book. Put Boban in Fast & Furious next.
7. Do you have any lingering questions about the logistics of the High Table?
Fennessey: Who are they? Where are they? Why are they? In other words, we’ve been fluffed for John Wick 4.
Serrano: Yes. I have a thousand questions. A million questions. A billion questions. But I think we’ve seen enough from the John Wick movies to know that the people in charge of building out that universe know what they’re doing. I trust them so much.
Surrey: Why does a dude who lives in the middle of the desert in a tent have a higher authority than them? Where is High Table HQ located? How was the High Table formed? Do they influence elections?
Lara: I’m very curious about how many members of the high table are there and whether the Elder is the highest the High Table goes.
Samman: So uh, what’s the deal with the Elder? He’s above the High Table? And he just floats around the Moroccan desert waiting for wayward assassins to pass out in the sand? Seems like a poor use of resources. Maybe they should start using Slack to communicate.
Gruttadaro: The hierarchy of rules—which oaths supercede which doctrines, etc.—is truly dizzying. But mostly I’m just wondering why, in Morocco, they would keep their most prized artifacts outside. The weather and desert sand would ruin those things!
8. Rank the John Wick movies.
1B. John Wick
1C. John Wick: Chapter 2
1. John Wick: Chapter 2
3. John Wick
Herman: The second has the perfect balance of narrative simplicity and baroque mythology. One and three each hew a little too closely to one side of that spectrum.
1. John Wick
3. John Wick: Chapter 2
2. John Wick: Chapter 2
3. John Wick
Parabellum: 99 percent.
John Wick: Chapter 2: 98 percent.
John Wick: 97 percent.
9. With another sequel teased at the end of Parabellum, how much longer can this franchise go? How much more punishment can Keanu Reeves/John Wick realistically survive?
Lara: Let the Baba Yaga live forever!!!
Herman: At least as much as Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt can over in the Mission: Impossible world.
Zoladz: How dare you suggest that John Wick is mortal! As a new convert, I will already say I hope they never stop making these movies.
Samman: I hope they do as many John Wick movies as there are fake 21 Jump Street sequels teased at the end of 22 Jump Street. Give me John Wick: Chapter 14—More Assassin Wars.
Phayer: We need a new John Wick movie every other year until Keanu is no longer into it. I will watch these movies until the day I die. P.S. Please bring Common back for Chapter 4.
Surrey: Keanu Reeves is a noted immortal being; John Wick can survive building drops and endless gunfire. It’s clear everyone involved is having a blast, and we’ve still got many Continental chains across the globe to explore. (Can we hit up the Hong Kong Continental next?) Until it’s revealed that the High Table has a base on the moon, and John Wick has to go to space and kill them with zero-gravity headshots, I don’t think we’re approaching the end anytime soon.
Gruttadaro: It is very clever how this trilogy has been written, in that the events of the movies have spanned only about a week within the universe. Keanu has gotten older—and probably won’t be able to fall off buildings forever—but John Wick has technically barely aged, and the relatively short timespan means the franchise can still get creative with how it extends its lifespan.
Serrano: It can go on forever. That’s part of what makes it so great. You could pick literally any primary or secondary character from any of the first three movies and give them their own movie, and it’s all going to be great. We should be very thankful.
Fennessey: I’m mostly just worried about Keanu’s well-being, so they should cap the series at 14 installments.