John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, 2019.
Directed by Chad Stahelski.
Starring Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Anjelica Huston, Saïd Taghmaoui, Mark Dacascos, Lance Reddick, Jerome Flynn, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tiger Hu Chen, Asia Kate Dillon, and Jason Mantzoukas.
John Wick goes from revenge driven hunter to most hunted man alive as he runs from a $14 million dollar bounty with no friends left to turn to.
With most action franchises, audiences might come to expect more of the same from each subsequent installment. While John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum features the eponymous assassin still killing people in a variety of ways, the film offers a great amount that ups the ante from the previous John Wick films and delivers something new. The result director Chad Stahelski achieves is making John Wick: Chapter 3 an intensely fun ride with outstanding action sequences and gorgeous cinematography that keeps this sequel feeling fresh and energetic.
Keanu Reeves is again in fine form as John Wick as he delivers a new side to the character. We’ve seen John angry, we’ve seen him confident, but we’ve never seen him completely desperate as he is in this film. Left with a huge price on his head and very few allies willing to help him, this is a spot for John we’ve only caught brief glimpses of, but his desperation shines throughout the film’s story and Reeves certainly sells it. Reeves is able to shift between John’s display of desperation and cold professionalism with ease as well as John’s inner battle with the human side his late wife unlocked and his ‘Baba Yaga’ persona. The care Reeves feels and gives to the character is clear through his strong performance.
The rest of the cast do just as well as with their roles, especially the returning Ian McShane and Lance Reddick. Halle Berry shares nice chemistry with Reeves as Sofia, a fellow assassin, and is pretty memorable in her own right with her two combat dogs. Berry displays both a fierceness and vulnerability to Sofia and plays with the balance well. Angelica Houston may appear briefly, but she gives quite a presence as a mysterious figure from John’s past with a cold dispassion that makes her character one of the most memorable out of the new blood. Asia Kate Dillon’s Adjudicator is a good foil against McShane’s Winston as she sells the authority and power her role gives her while Mark Dacascos is a pretty fun addition to the cast as Zero, the High Table’s personal assassin to serve out justice against any who defy them and does so with a little too much enjoyment. And while Laurence Fishburne’s time is also brief, he milks every scene he’s in with his natural charisma.
Of course what the John Wick films are known for is their intense action and Chapter 3 does not let up in that regard. From John riding through New York on horseback, swordfighting on motorcycles or utilizing library books as weapons, Stahelski makes it a point to find new and inventive sequences to make the action feel different. The inclusion of Sofia’s combat dogs is both unique and brutal as they take down attackers is various bloody ways. The fights also serve to give John even more to worry about with some tougher opponents and situations. Nothing feels easy for him or the allies he makes as they try to survive. The choreography is top notch with great techniques and clean movement between the actors, particularly the fights that are had in the third act. Going hand-in-hand with the choreography is the cinematography. Between the gorgeous settings, beautiful colours and exquisite lighting throughout the film, the cinematography really elevates Chapter 3 to be the best looking and most exciting of the three films.
The film is paced pretty well for the most part. Right from the start the story is off as John counts down his remaining time before the bounty comes into effect and doesn’t let up throughout most of the first act. Things quiet down a bit in the middle as the film tries to juggle a bit more between John’s personal mission and the High Table’s reaffirmation of their authority. It’s interesting that even for the third film, Chapter 3 continues the franchise’s sense of world-building to a great degree with the introduction of new characters and customs to their shadowy world. It might also include the most humour of the franchise with some well-timed comedic beats, particularly Dacascos’ slightly unhinged and cheery Zero with his fanboy adoration of John’s work. It may feel a tad much at times, but Stahelski balances the action, story and further world-building nicely throughout most of the film.
For audiences expecting more of the same, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum does great at being both familiar and different with its action sequences and John’s journey. Stahelski directs a fine film and Reeves gives another standout performance with a more than competent supporting cast. The franchise continues to be exciting and bold with its film making and is sure to please many John Wick fans.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★