‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ Theatrical Review
It has been quite a rare summer this year. Both cinema and TV have had long standing sagas, which have defined the past 10 years, finally come to an end. Endgame was the final chapter to the decade long Avengers arc, and Game Of Thrones has one episode remaining of its epic journey. Arguments can be made as to how each should have ended, but one thing that cannot be disputed is the level of great storytelling each has provided with a long list of characters we have followed and grown attached to as each narrative has reached their conclusions.
With as much attention as these two giants have garnered, it’s easy to forget that there are other great franchises that are still telling great stories, one of them being John Wick. Known mostly for non-stop action and an insane number of head-shots, the John Wick franchise has produced one of the most unique settings while creating a character that we care for and whose actions we approve of. John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a man that does not want to kill, but behind every shot is man who just wants to be at peace with what he has lost in his life, making every one of his kills justified. For those unfamiliar, John Wick is a former assassin who quit to live a normal life with his wife. He is brought back into that world after Russian gangsters kill a baby beagle that was a last gift from his wife, delivered after her death. The dog was not only a present, but also a way to help him cope with his grief. Just wanting to grieve, John knows he cannot do so until those who want him to return his old lifestyle are gone. But even after he takes care of them, he has done things that have brought him back into the world he left, and now he is searching for a way out. John Wick is some of the best action since The Raid. The choreography is not only hard hitting, but beautiful. It creates a world that we love spending time in, with the hope that John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum will continue a great story that is a fitting end to the journey we have taken with our hero.
Chad Stahelski has decided we have rested long enough since the last film, and attacks our senses from the opening scene with a barrage of guns, knives, samurai swords and broken glass and continues without regard for whatever breath we may need to take between attacks. This chapter of John Wick leaves you exhausted, but only after the adrenaline has kicked in from the assault of bullets and broken glass. Coming from a stunt background, Stahelski knows how to create an action scene, and the ones in John Wick are close to perfection – not just by the great fight choreography but the creative sets as well. From an opening fight in a library, to a battle of knives in an antique store, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum raises the bar of the action, where the stakes are higher as John must face more difficult opponents if he wants to live.
We begin where we left off from the last film as the now excommunicado Wick races through the rainy streets of New York, trying to find an escape with the one-hour grace period given to him by Winston (Ian McShane). With a $14 million bounty on him, John can barely turn a corner without every assassin shooting a gun or throwing a knife in his direction. John is able to battle his way to an old theater run by The Director (Anjelica Houston), who took John in as an orphan. Through old debts, John is granted passage to a safe haven called Casablanca. Once there, John reunites with Sofia (Halle Berry), a former colleague who helps him to find an audience with the only one who can reverse the excommunicado on him, The Elder (Said Taghmaoui). But nothing is free, and earning his freedom will not only require John to face tough adversaries, but also make decisions when it comes to those in his life he calls friends.
Although the action is phenomenal, this movie really has the potential to be just another action movie unless there is a believable hero. Keanu is already loved and well respected in real life, but it is his commitment to both the acting and the stunt work that makes the difference here. His expressions and gusto make us root for him as a man who just wants to be left in peace to grieve for his wife, and the violence that comes from his hands is the only way to for him to achieve that. In the best role of his life you can see Keanu is also having the time of his life. Unlike the other two films where John was the focus, side characters are given more of story arc, expanding this world even more. Winston has been the most seen character in the previous films, and he is finally given his own sub-plot, as well as Laurence Fishburne’s Bowery King where each must face consequences for aiding Wick.
One of my complaints of the previous John Wick films has been a more than easy main villain to face our hero. In this chapter, with his life on the line, John has the best assassins after him. Marc Dacascos makes the best villain to date as Zero, a master of the dark arts and the leader of a group of ninjas. Zero can disappear and reappear at any time, making him one of the deadliest assassins in the world. He is obsessed with John. He wants to kill him, not just for the money, but because he is a fan and it makes for some great humor whenever the two interact. I was most impressed with Halle Berry, whose role here is the best she’s played in years, but also shows how great she can be in an action film. She plays Sofia, who is someone from John’s past, and watching her fight was like seeing female version of Wick. I could certainly see a spin-off for her, along with many other characters from this franchise.
The script from screenwriters Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins and Marc Abrams has expanded on this already imaginative world by digging more into the past of the Boogyman, and answers questions like the importance of all those gold coins. With all the character development and new information about this underworld, it can be a lot to take in and at times makes the movie feel long. But then comes another rush of action you can’t find anywhere else and you forget about that. Supposedly, this is the conclusion of the trilogy but if fans or Keanu Reeves have anything to say about it, we’ll be seeing more of this world and ‘Baba Yaga.’
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After gunning down a member of the High Table — the shadowy international assassin’s guild — legendary hit man John Wick finds himself stripped of the organization’s protective services.