In Latin, si vis pacem, para bellum – if you want peace, prepare for war – and in the third installment of the John Wick series, the titular character stays ready for whatever. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum finds the titular assassin on the run after a $14 million dollar bounty is placed on his head following the events of John Wick: Chapter 2. Chad Stahelski returns as director in this neo-noir action thriller with Keanu Reeves, Lance Riddick, Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne reprising their roles. They’re joined by Halle Berry, Asia Kate Dillon, Anjelica Huston, Mark Dacascos and Saïd Taghmaoui. Spoilers after the trailer.
Following the events of John Wick: Chapter 2, the film begins with John Wick (Keanu Reeves) on the run as an “excommunicado” on the run after killing Santino on the grounds at the safe haven of the Continental Hotel. At the time of writing this review, I haven’t seen the first two films but the film does a good job at explaining what’s going on for the people who are new to it.
For fans of action, this movie delivers within the first 10 minutes. Have you ever seen a man kill another man with a book? The first fight scene is a brawl in a library between John Wick and Ernest (Boban Marjanovic) and it is brutal. Ernest is a mountain of a man and he towers over Wick yet he’s checked out of life by Wick with a book. The way this scene is filmed with wide shots gives the action a sense of atmosphere.
Boban Marjanovic is an NBA player and the 7’3″ center had a solid feature film debut. His role was pretty much a cameo but the direction did a good job at using him to be intimidating. When paired with Keanu Reeves, the Yugoslavian-born player towers over him and the film does a good job selling the idea that Reeves could win in a fight.
Ride Until I Can’t No More
Have you ever wondered what it would look like to see a man on a horse kill multiple men on motorcycles? There’s a violent action scene where Wick disposes of multiple assassins on a horse and it’s visually appealing to watch. The problem with this scene is that as nice and cool as it was filmed, logically it doesn’t make much sense because you’d think the assassins would shoot his horse.
But this isn’t a movie where one has to think about logic because the fight scenes are what makes this movie. Director Chad Stahelski is a former stuntman who has an eye for capturing action in the most imaginative of ways. When paired with cinematographer Dan Laustsen, the duo created a film that always felt fresh during its action sequences. As Wick progresses through the film, each battle he uses a different weapon and a different fighting style which showcases how innovative an assassin that Wick is.
The only issue is that whenever he’s hurt in the film, it’s forgotten about in the next scene. John Wick gets hit by a car and gets up and walks it off. If one of the minions’ stab or cut him, he’s fine and doesn’t even flinch. There are moments in the movie where Wick is so invincible that if John Wick was an Avenger he’d kill Thanos because nothing could hurt him. This becomes somewhat frustrating to watch because the stakes are drastically decreased since it never feels like our hero is in danger.
Things go from fun and action pack to comical and goofy when John Wick fights Zero (Mark Dacascos), the main antagonist of the film, in the middle of an unnoticed public. Wick literally kills a man in front of everyone and no one seems to be bothered. For most of the film, the assassins have executed most of their killings discreetly but during this scene all of that goes out the window.
Who Let The Dogs Out?
Outside of the action scenes, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum excels with its world building. John meets Sofia (Halle Berry), a friend and manager of the Casablanca Continental. Sofia is the proud owner of two German Shepherds that are the living embodiment of fur missiles. Sofia and her dogs assisted Wick in his quest to find the Elder (Saïd Taghmaoui) but they ran into some trouble along the way. After gaining knowledge of the Elder’s place from Berrada (Jerome Flynn), he asks for one of Sofia’s dogs in return, however, she does not abide which causes him to shoot her dog. A reference to a previous movie. Berrada isn’t a good shot and shoots the dog in its bulletproof vest and this causes the film’s best action scene to take place.
The wide shots were used at their best during the scene as Sofia’s dogs bit down on the opposition. She’s directing traffic and they go where they’re told. They’re jumping over things, attacking other assassins with accuracy, and left me thinking that they need a spin-off involving Sofia and her dogs. Halle Berry’s character had around 15 to 20 minutes of screentime but for me, she stole the show.
Every fight scene in this movie felt like John was completing a level in a game, so after he and Sofia cleaned house, John tells her he’s going to finish looking for the Elder. The Elder lives in the desert, Sofia and John have only a squig out of a single bottle of water left until Sofia drinks it and spits it back into the bottle. Earlier, the film hinted that something in the past went down between these two and this was a nice way to follow up on that implication in the context of the film. This is also a great way to humanize Sofia and make you want to know more about her character.
The world building doesn’t stop with Sofia, this film introduces the Adjudicator for the High Table (Asia Kate Dillon) and they’re truly terrifying. They spend much of the film confronting and punishing everyone who has assisted the now excommunicated Wick. The Adjudicator is the one that recruits Zero to assassinate Wick, they violently make The Director (Anjelica Huston) and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) pay for going against the rule of the High Table. Winston (Ian McShane) doesn’t want to give up his ownership of the Continental Hotel and this sets up the final fight scene of the film.
Asia Kate Dillon was perfectly cast for their role as the Adjudicator because they’re menacing and take command on-screen when confronting the allies of Wick. Dillon’s cold demeanor makes their character feel as if nothing is personal and they’re just doing their job, which adds a layer to the role of the Adjudicator. If there is a fourth film, I hope they return to the role.
Fishburne plays up the craziness of the homeless Bowery King. He’s wonky, deranged and tells the Adjudicator that he’s too big for the High Table to stop his reign. When the film ends, the setup of his character in a possible sequel will be interesting to see what is next for him.
Filled with well choreographed action sequences and an impressive cast of stars, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is an enjoyable neo-noir action thriller. Keanu Reeves is the perfect embodiment of his character and the world-building elevates the franchise for exciting future stories to tell, especially with Sofia and her dogs. The biggest complaint is that John Wick never sells his injuries and it makes his character seem invincible, which drastically lowers the stakes throughout the film. Hopefully, in the eventual fourth film, this is something that Stahelski will address to create a more compelling film. John Wick 3 lives up to Parabellum subtitle, because the titular character keeps the piece, which is why he’s prepared for war.
[All Mames Wey]
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum was released in theaters May 17, 2019