John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is the newest entry into the action franchise starring Keanu Reeves as the eponymous assassin. Set immediately following the events of the last film, this entry follows Wick as he tries to escape the contract on his head after being declared a persona non grata for breaking the rules of the assassins’ High Council.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the movie is that it seems to ignore the last five minutes of the prior entry. The last film ends with the contract having already been announced, and when this movie begins, he is still during his head-start time. The fact that this is the biggest complaint to be had about the film should be pretty revealing, but it does steal some of the movie’s authenticity.
This film’s story is also much simpler than that of other entries, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The first movie was a somewhat straightforward, but still relentlessly enjoyable revenge tale. The second was something much more complex and nuances. This entry takes the series in yet another (obvious) direction, a survive-the-night thriller in which the protagonist must face obstacles repeatedly until success or death. This does give the film an element of unpredictability because, despite the fact that you can get a good idea of what is going to happen in the individual beats of the story, you will have no idea what the next beat is going to be.
At this point, it’s safe to assume that if you are watching the third movie, you will have watched the other two. As such, there isn’t a ton of development for the pre-existing main characters. We pick up the story in medias res, so if you don’t have that character foundation, you may not enjoy this film apart from its wonderful action sequences. That being said, for fans of the franchise, this will serve as a satisfying continuation of the arcs you will have seen in past movies for Wick, Winston, and the Bowery King. Chiron, the concierge of the Continental and one of the most enjoyable supporting characters in past films, gets a bigger and deeper role in this movie, and it is awesome to see where the film takes him. The new character Sofia (portrayed by Halle Berry) is an interesting addition even if she is a bit underused.
Additionally, while not living up to the world-building excellence of the second entry, this movie does a solid job of exploring some of the mythology of the assassins’ world. This entry gives us a glimpse into yet another aspect of their organization: the High Council. The introduction of the Adjudicator as a concept and character in the world is very intriguing. Again, this film will make you want to spend even more time in this world, and hopefully a long-rumored TV spin-off focused on The Continental will eventually deliver.
That being said, the movie still recaptures most of the magic that makes the series work because it is so action-packed and intense throughout. There can’t be more than fifteen minutes of the runtime that is comprised of something other than action sequences, and that brief time isn’t wasted, being spent on moments that prep you for the next big action scene. If you enjoy films that let you turn your brain off and watch some cool fights, this is sure to be a blast for you.
Undeniably the best part of this franchise is its creative fight choreography that features different styles. The first movie was gritty, Chapter 2 is dance-like, and Parabellum is, in a way, campier and aims to elicit laughter from the audience. This film really allows the sets to get involved in the action, some of the best moments in the movie playing off of the locations in which the scene is set. There is a fight involving a book that rivals the pen scene from the last film.
The rest of the movie’s execution is also very solid. The style of the subtitles is pretty campy, as it was in the other films, but at this point, it works rather well. The cinematography is excellent, capturing the action with great fluidity. Additionally, the score is very good, doing a phenomenal job of setting the movie’s tone and drawing you into the action.
The actors all do a fine job in their roles, but this is a film that isn’t particularly demanding in what it asks of its performers emotionally. Instead, the actors are supposed to play it very over-the-top and cheesy, and are set to succeed as long as they can handle the choreography. This role seems like it was made for Reeves, and he seems to be enjoying it immensely. Hopefully Hollywood will leave his action persona to this and not attempt to put him in cheap knockoffs. Ian McShane is also great in his role, having a few moments in which his personality is allowed to truly shine. Mark Dacascos, who plays the movie’s primary antagonist, is absolutely phenomenal in the role. This is his first major film role, a majority of his previous work being in TV and smaller movies, so hopefully this will allow him to breakout.
Overall, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum was very enjoyable. As a fan of the franchise, it is pretty much exactly what you want. In context of the series, it ranks higher than the first, but doesn’t quite match the second.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum opens in theaters on May 17.