Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

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Directed by: Chad Stahelski

Written by: Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, Marc Abrams

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon

Rating: [4.5/5]

After breaking the rules of the Continental Hotel, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), must elude a multi-million dollar bounty recently placed on him. Now with his back against the wall and every assassin in the world willing to take their chance on him, he needs to use every remaining resource left to him and survive. 

This film opens with a countdown of time until John Wick officially becomes “excommunicado”, which means that he can no longer receive the services afforded to him as an assassin. Through this opening, the intensity of the story revs up and sets up the actual danger the protagonist faces. A task that must be difficult to do considering Wick has been established as such a formidable force, but its intensity is palpable and prepares the audience for the protagonist to be a true underdog in his battle to live. 

This particular trilogy of films has something exquisitely special about them and it comes down to the excellent style of action filmmaking it employs. While narratively this film is not as strong throughout its entire runtime, I was enthralled from beginning to end by the aesthetic and bone-cracking violence this film displays. It all comes down to the difference with how the film captures the fight sequences in a far superior manner than the typical American action flick. Instead of quick cuts that leave the audience disoriented, the action gets shown from a wider lens that clearly displays the stunts and the fighting taking place. Each blow dealt during the fight scenes has weight and the impact can be felt from across the screen.

The new set pieces are also just absolutely breathtaking, especially one that includes John Wick riding horses through New York City. I’ll repeat that John Wick rides a horse through New York City to fight some unlucky assassins. You cannot make these things up and I don’t see how they can get more creative in any future installments. Additionally, this installment of the franchise builds the idea of celebrity that Wick has accrued over the years. In the first installment, many referred Wick as “The Boogeyman” and someone who should be feared. That idea grows and follows through to this film when other assassins that try to take him on seem starstruck with the idea that they get to fight a legend in their craft. The equivalent of a rookie quarterback getting to take on Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. Such a small detail in the film but with an excellent payoff. 

This continues the long-overdue renaissance of Keanu Reeves in Hollywood after he dominated the 90s with Speed and The Matrix. This franchise has catapulted his stature, as he nears the movie star status once again to the point where he can play himself in Always Be My Maybe and easily became the best part of that entire feature. He brings his own charm to every role even if he does not possess the best acting ability. Very easy to forgive when knowing his excellent character as a person. The way he prepares for the action and performs many of his own stunts shows his dedication to the craft. This rise in stardom could not happen to a better person. 

The world-building of this film sensationally expands the mythology of this community of assassins. I love the idea of the Continental Hotel and a world full of assassins adhering to an arbitrary set of rules that everyone respects. Of course, this world has its own governing body that would have a character like The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), who upholds the regulations and corrects any violations to it. In the grand scheme, it seems ridiculous but I really buy into this universe and it works. The addition of other characters like Anjelica Huston’s The Director becomes a fine addition but Zero (Mark Dacascos) stands out as the finest new foe as he represents the biggest threat to Wick. Not only does he have a ferocity to him but he also adds an unexpected layer of comedy to his sequences. 

Adding Halle Berry to this story was such a treat because she brings her dynamic acting ability to an action franchise that deserves her. The same cannot be said for Catwoman but she shows her prowess and she leaves her impact in this minor supporting role. That and her dogs add such a different fighting style that rejuvenates some of the sequences. Also, for anyone familiar with this franchise and have apprehensiveness about the fate of the dogs, I will gladly spoil that they do survive and kick some butt in the process. 

Everything in the film culminates in a large action sequence as most action movies do and its technical execution is superb. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum has so much to love from its story and how it maintains consistency in franchise filmmaking that doesn’t typically happen when a third installment has been made. With every film, the stakes are raised and the action sequences get even more creative than the last, which seems impossible. Action filmmaking does not really get any better than this and I hope this franchise continues to deliver.

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