John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum | Chad Stahelski | May 17, 2019
If you didn’t get the hint from the previous two movies, John Wick is most certainly back. Who would’ve guessed five years ago when the trailers for the first John Wick dropped that we’d be sitting here talking about it as one of the most consistent and reliable film franchises out there, action or otherwise. The role of John Wick has fit star Keanu Reeves like a glove, giving the actor a perfect chance to show off his action chops while also finding a similar good use for his insular persona, allowing the action to do all the speaking for him, just like it does for the film.
John Wick: Chapter 2 director Chad Stahelski confidently returns to the helm for Chapter 3, which kicks off right where Chapter 2 left off with John Wick running for his life after being declared “ex communicado” by the High Table and The Continental New York’s manager Winston (Ian McShane) with a hefty $14 million price tag on his head after his killing of Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) on Continental grounds. He doesn’t get far before countless assassins out for blood and the bounty come for him and he’s forced to fight them off in an even more creative and brutal fashion than ever before.
What’s most remarkable about this installment is the way that Stahelski and the screenwriting team of Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, and Marc Abrams find a way to further deepen the lore and mystique of this world of assassins, while also keeping the plot rather simplistic – enough so where the focus remains on Wick doing his thing against a near-endless stream of bad guys waiting to get theirs. Meanwhile, Wick’s old comrades Winston and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) receive a visit from a High Table Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), who is there to mete out punishment for the aid they provided Wick in his eventual rule-breaking.
The fight sequences that open the film while Wick is trying to escape New York are arguably some of the best sequences of the series to date, and I was left wondering how those sequences could possibly be topped. The truth is that they don’t. While the final third have some equally wonderful fights and moments, it’s hard to top seeing John Wick using an antique weapon shop filled with knives, axes, and pistols, as well as a horse stable, to his tactical advantage. The opening sequence is so astonishing that the middle act featuring a Casablanca trip to visit his old colleague Sofie (Halle Berry) unfortunately pales in comparison. Berry doesn’t ever feel natural in the role and I couldn’t help but feel that the story was slightly dragging its feet, tip-toeing to get back to the good stuff back in New York. While the use of trained dogs is a cool feat, that particular fight sequence was the first time I ever felt overload or fatigue from an action sequence from the series.
But if there ever was proof that there needs to be a Best Stunt category at the Oscars, look no further than right here. The choreography that Stahelski and his team pull ogf here is truly a marvel – an impressive feat that, like the Mission Impossible series, continues to amaze and push the boundaries of what is possible in the world of action filmmaking. There are some truly innovative and creative kills that continue to up the ante and make us wonder what they will do in the inevitable John Wick 4 that undoubtedly awaits (and based on the ending here, there will be a 4th – along with a spin-off Continental series on Starz).
Keanu Reeves continues to shine in the role, one he was practically born to play and one which finds the perfect use for his talents. He only has so much to say, but when he does, the demeanor and tone that Reeves is known for totally fits the bill and allows his killings to ring that much truer. McShane and Fishburne continue to shine in their respective roles, as does Lance Reddick’s Charon, who finally gets to get in on some of the action. The two new standout performances this time around are from Asia Kate Dillon as the no-nonsense Adjudicator and the hilarious Mark Dacascos as Zero, the High Table-ordered assassin sent to finish the job on Wick, along with Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman from The Raid films.
Aside from a middle section that kills some of the early momentum (but does allow for welcome appearances from Anjelica Huston and Game of Thrones‘ Jerome Flynn, among others), John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is ultimately another winning entry in one of the most surprising hit franchises in recent memory. While it doesn’t have the emotional arc or pull of the first, it feels like it knows what really makes this series tick, maybe more so than the 2nd, embracing it and endearing all the charm and awe-inspiring action sequences that will make you laugh and cheer just as much as they make you cringe for their proximity and brutality. I have nothing but confidence in the team involved and am fully ready to see where they take it with Chapter 4. In the meantime, I have no problem revisiting the current trilogy.