A mere four years ago, a little sleeper hit called John Wick (2014) was released. This modestly-budgeted film boiled the action genre down to its core. The story went like this: Following the murder of his dog, a former hitman exacts revenge on everyone responsible. Simple, right? Exactly! This primal, sparse plot left room for all the action and violence to take center-stage. Thus, resulting in a movie that is one of the most visceral and fun action flicks of all-time.
Still, going into John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) I figured there was no way the sequel would work. I would have bet the farm that John Wick was a one-trick pony. Well, folks, I frankly have never been more wrong in my life. Chapter 2 did absolutely everything a sequel should. It upped the action ante; expanding the universe and cinematic style of the first film; all while giving star Keanu Reeves (The Matrix) a little more to do a second time around. Despite following its predecessor’s formula of kinetic action, interspersed with occasional breaks to progress the narrative, John Wick: Chapter 2 proved that this franchise was going to be one of the most consistently entertaining and fun action movie series around.
As is this franchise’s formula, John Wick, Chapter 3: Parabellum picks up where the previous installment left off. John Wick’s (Keanu Reeves) status in the underworld is that of “Excommunicado,” leaving him with no resources. Furthermore, an open contract worth $14 million has been put own Wick’s head. Now, every professional killer around wants a shot our hero.
Reeves, along with director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad return to continue the story of John Wick’s wrath. Unlike the previous chapter, Chapter 3 takes a few minutes to get going. But, once it does, Parabellum is a kinetically violent and fun thrill-ride! Once again, the filmmakers prove that they have the best understanding of a sequel and the requirements therein. This film gives the viewer everything they could want while adding more to the mix. In regards to the action in Parabellum, if you’re looking for gun-fu right off the bat, you’ll have to wait a bit. Instead, the film offers up new and innovative fight sequences involving hand-to-hand and knife based combat. Not to mention chases involving motorcycles, horses, and attacks by dogs sporting tactical vests.
Beyond the action, Stahelski and cinematographer Dan Laustsen expand the visual palette of the movie in review. As usual, the movie’s cinematography finds beauty in the darkness of the neon-lit, rain-drenched nights of a John Wick adventure. While such settings and visual stylings ring familiar, we also get to see the lighter side of this universe. The Casablanca and dessert sections of this flick are absolutely beautiful and add a whole new layer to what is already the visual equivalent of feasting on lasagne. In my estimation, the John Wick movies are not only some of the best offered by their genre; these movies are some of the best-looking action movies ever made.
Like its predecessors, Parabellum is not a dense narrative. However, this third entry does even more to expand the mythology of its world as well as Wick’s backstory. In doing so, the cast is given more to do. Reeves embodies his titular character as always, but I think it’s the supporting cast who truly shines this time around. I feel that Winston (Ian McShane), Charon (Lance Reddick), and The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) all light up the screen whenever they’re on it. The character of Sofia (Halle Berry) was also a nice addition.
In my estimation, the John Wick movies are among the best action flicks ever produced, and Parabellum merely adds to that reputation. The constant and satisfying action that these three movies provide is only outshined by the Indonesian martial-arts filmic duo of The Raid: Redemption (2011) and The Raid 2: Berandal (2014). I can only level one slight criticism against Parabellum and its predecessors. That being that these movies are exhausting because they pack so much unrelenting action into their respective runtimes. Thus, I always feel a bit tired, like I’m coming down from an adrenaline rush after watching one of them. Even so, John Wick, Chapter 3: Parabellum is the most fun I’ve had at the movies thus far this year; and willing to wager you’ll feel the same way.
John Wick, Chapter 3: Parabellum is In Theaters Now!