The third film of the explosive blockbuster franchise basically declares it isn’t resting on its laurels when John Wick offs one of his first assailants by way of a book early into the movie. Or resting at all, for that matter. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a wild white-knuckle ride with almost non-stop action. The two-hour running time flies by and once again audiences will be as exhausted as franchise star Keanu Reeves by the time the end credits roll.
The first two films set the bar high for action geeks, but this third film manages to top its predecessors. Chapter 3 features some of the best choreographed and executed action scenes not only of the franchise, but of any recent action film.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum opens with John on the run with only minutes left before a multi-million dollar price tag on his head is activated. John killed a member of the High Table, a secret international assassin’s guild, while at the Continental Hotel. That’s strictly forbidden and now he’s forced to pay the price for breaking the rules by forfeiting his life. Once 6pm hits, none of his fellow assassins can offer him help (shelter, weapons, or other resources). He’s been labeled excommunicado and whoever takes him out earns the $14 million bounty.
Alone after sending his dog off (via taxi) to the safety of the Continental, John attempts to stay off the radar and ahead of killers equally as skilled at tracking as he is at disappearing.
Fists, knifes, machetes, swords, axes, garottes, horses, and guns – John Wick isn’t picky when it comes to weapons used to killing those out to get him. Just when you think it’s safe to catch your breath, Wick is thrust into another fight with one…or two…or half a dozen…bounty-hunting hitmen in which he’ll use any handy nearby item in order to stay alive. When he teams up with the ruler of Casablanca, Sofia (Halle Berry, kicking a** and taking names), Chapter 3 adds Malinois dogs to its list of lethal weapons during some spectacular action sequences that had to have been incredibly difficult to shoot. It’s only fitting dogs are called into action given the fact the murder of his beloved puppy prompted John Wick to come out of retirement for revenge in the first place.
The third film brings back supporting players including Ian McShane as Winston, the man who runs the Continental. Lance Reddick is finally allowed to show off his action skills as Charon, the hotel’s concierge. The first two films found Charon stuck behind the reception desk, but this third movie gives Reddick a much more active role in what’s going down at the hotel. Laurence Fishburne reprises his role as the Bowery King, the pigeon-loving leader of the disenfranchised.
New to the franchise and key to the events in Parabellum is Billions’ Asia Kate Dillon as The Adjudicator. The nameless, all-business character works for the High Table and is charged with cleaning up loose ends (namely Winston and the Bowery King) that aided John Wick after he broke the rules in Chapter 2.
Keanu Reeves is once again absolutely terrific as the ex-hitman with a soul, a still functioning moral compass (despite his years as an assassin for hire), and the protector of all canines. Sure, he’s ruthless and brutal, but he’s motivated and driven by his love for his deceased wife and the puppy she gave him so he wouldn’t be alone in his grief.
Reeves is completely committed to the complicated action stunts in the John Wick films, training in multiple forms of martial arts in order to believably play this skilled assassin. He’s also committed to giving audiences an unconventional anti-hero to cheer for even as the body count rises. “For me action has always been about that connection between the audience and the character,” explained Reeves. “If that connection is there, the action has an emotional impact and you can feel the stakes.”
The John Wick films are loaded with over-the-top action scenes, and I defy any fan of the genre to come away from Parabellum disappointed in what director Chad Stahelski – a former stunt coordinator and former stunt double for Reeves – has pulled off. Honestly, the pivotal fight scene between Reeves as Wick and actor/martial arts champion Mark Dacascos as Zero alone is worth the price of a ticket.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a non-stop, balls to the wall blast that leaves you drained yet wanting more. Fortunately, the story leaves open the option for a fourth film. Hopefully Keanu Reeves has at least one more chapter in him and won’t make us wait long for more of John Wick, his faithful dog, and the colorful characters that populate Wick’s world.
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong violence, and some language
Release Date: May 17, 2019
Running Time: 131 minutes
Additional Supporting Cast: Saïd Taghmaoui, Jerome Flynn, Jason Mantzoukas, Tobias Segal, Boban Marjanovic, and Anjelica Huston