John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Review
In 2014 the number stood around 84, before increasing to 128 in 2017; add a zero to that last figure and you might get close to how many people meet their maker in John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum. Not that it will come as any great surprise to fans of the film series. Our reluctant assassin confirmed his mythical status in the first two films and the body count was only ever going to increase in this third instalment.
Which is both a good and bad thing for a franchise that isn’t looking to go back into retirement just yet. Fans come for the violence and get it in spades but it doesn’t leave much room for character growth or to avoid repeating itself with each new entry. The longer it continues the harder those problems will become to solve but in the meantime the third part of the John Wick saga delivers bloody, punishing, comic-book violence that does not disappoint.
When we left Mr Wick a couple of years back he was just beginning his slow, bow-legged run accompanied by his trusty pitbull away from the entire criminal underground about to hunt him down. Parabellum picks things up from the same point as the clock ticks towards 6pm and he is declared excommunicado: a dead man walking in his own city. Wick always manages to find a way out of the impossible (usually with a handgun and a handful of bullets) but what can one man and his dog do against these sort of odds?
Without taking too wild a guess, you probably already know the answer. Director Chad Stahelski knows what works and sticks resolutely to the John Woo-esque bullet ballet formula we’ve come to love over the past two films. Guns are standard, but this time Keanu Reeves gets to play with swords, books (in an hilariously violent opening), horses, belts, motorbikes, hatchets, some pretty cool attack dogs (alongside Halle Berry) and also appears in a homage to the hall of mirrors finale in Enter The Dragon.
Many of the old faces return to their roles around the peripheral of Wick’s search for peace and redemption. Ian McShane charms his way through The Continental aided by Lance Reddick's Charon. Halle Berry pops up as a reluctant acquaintance and Anjelica Huston also makes an appearance that sheds a little more light on Wick’s pre-dead puppy history. Laurence Fishburne’s Bowery is less prominent this time round, while Asia Kate Dillon’s straight-backed role as The Adjudicator sees her come in to assess the events of the second film and mete out punishment where necessary.
Stylistically little has changed, with DoP Dan Laustsen bathing the frame in the gorgeous subtle ambers, neon reds and aqua blues that have dressed so many of the action scenes to date. The John Wick films provide some of the best visual storytelling anywhere in commercial filmmaking today and Parabellum continues to do just enough to fill the gaps left by the absence of any meaningful plot or fleshed-out characters.
Once again the choreography excels to produce a series of exhilarating hand-to-hand action sequences that will stand the test of time as the years roll by. Stahelski’s background obviously lends itself towards these moments and along with ex-directing partner David Leitch they are reminding the rest of Hollywood that CGI isn’t the only solution available. There’s a clear respect shown towards the artistry involved, so our eyes aren’t hammered into submission with a flurry of sharp edits. With that said, elements of the third act do feel a little repetitive and the fact you could shift around sequences from any of the films and still not miss a beat says enough in itself.
Most people have been left scratching their head as to what parabellum actually means, and Winston finally provides the answer by offering the words as a headline of sorts to the final showdown: si vis pacem, para bellum - if you want peace, prepare for war. By the time we reach John Wick 12, the events here will probably be seen as little more than a skirmish, so if you haven’t got battle fatigue by the end you should prepare to suit up, reload and get ready to go out blazing.
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum opens nationwide across the UK today and in the US on the 17th.
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019)
Dir: Chad Stahelski | Cast: Asia Kate Dillon, Ian McShane, Jerome Flynn, Keanu Reeves | Writers: Chris Collins (screenplay by), Derek Kolstad (based on characters created by), Derek Kolstad (screenplay by), Derek Kolstad (story by), Marc Abrams (screenplay by), Shay Hatten (screenplay by)