The John Wick series is unlike any other spy movie. In one-fourteenth of the time of James Bond’s legacy, fans have gobbled up John Wick and all the new ways he can kill someone over the past four years. It isn't that he just massacres bystanding hitmen; it's the intense choreography Keanu and the stunt crew perfect for every action scene; his enigmatic reputation and the relateable relationship Wick has with his dog; the slick direction of Chad Stahelski; the sleek production design as Wick sheds blood in a nightclub, on the city streets, or by a dockside that keeps us wanting more. While John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum carries over all of the stunning elements from the first two films, it also proposes that idea that sometimes story can damper the action.
The last time we saw Wick, he was running for his life as hundreds of anonymous assassins locked and loaded to earn the million-dollar bounty on his head. Racing around the world and against the clock, he now seeks out Sofia (Halle Berry) a former friend-turned-foe to help him get in contact with an even bigger power than The High Table who can protect him. The only thing it will cost Wick is everything he has left. Meanwhile, The Continental faces severe consequences for offering Wick a bigger leeway for escape than he should've been given.
Looking back on the John Wick chronicles so far, the first film remains the best and most original entry. Having his wife’s death, his car stolen, and his dog murdered established in the first half hour, the justice he deserves to seek is immediately earned. Chapter 2 became a bit of a recycled addition as Wick is brought back into the fold by a former crime lord and ends up crossing the line with the High Table's ironclad rules. While the previous flicks contained enough story so the entire film wasn't a shooting spree, Parabellum goes all in on the world-building. And some of it doesn't quite pay off as much as it should.
When John declared that he was back in, nobody probably guessed how far back in to his former life as he goes from predator to prey. Like whispers through the grapevine, we heard about the High Table but they remained a shadow in the overall universe. Their influence and power became as familiar and mysterious as acquaintances running into Wick's path and bowing out to stay out of his way. Before it gets too late in the franchise, the threequel starts compounding new characters into relatively less-than-interesting roles - Anjelica Huston as the Director of the Ruska Roma society Wick used to belong to; Saïd Taghmaoui as the Elder, the only one more powerful than the High Table; Asia Kate Dillon as the Adjudicator of the High Table. The series worked well without putting faces on the faceless High Table, but as more background is built, there's not a lot to go on that makes you care about them more than you did before.
Other characters used to flesh out the world-building fare better such as Laurence Fishbourne returning as the king of his own operation, and Ian McShane with Lance Reddick entertainingly holding down the fort at The Continental. By far the best addition to the cast is Halle Berry kicking ass and taking names alongside her dogs. Though her role isn't as big as the promos suggested, she easily earns hype for her own spin-off.
The best element about Parabellum that remains is the action. This installment has everything: Wick chucking knives and axes for five minutes straight, beating up a giant with a book, riding horses & killing people, driving motorcycles & killing people, killing people with Halle Berry, going to the desert in a suit, beating people with his belt, and guns (lots of guns). In between all of the bloodshed, he still manages to ensure his dog is in the right hands. None of the action sequences feel like they go on forever or feel over-stylized or repetitive, bringing more surprises and thrills than ever before. All of it set to the amazing music of Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard, and direction of Chad Stahelski. As easily as John Wick could be your standard action anti-hero, there's an electric chemistry between the cast and production that makes it so much more than average.
We only needed a finite amount of background, and HEY NOBODY MESSES WITH KEANU REEVES, for us to be on Wick's side in the first movie. As the installments increase and the plot smooths out the finer details, the action lives on stronger than the world-building. The stakes for Wick as a character hunker down in the background, trying to prove he's not as untouchable as we thought he was. But the odds aren't as emotionally satisfying as the previous films. Outside of the several enigmatic killing sprees, the plot doesn’t outshine what Keanu can do with whatever you put into his hands. There’s something about John Wick killing with the poise of a ballerina and leaving the gore of a slaughterhouse behind in his wake that's absolutely addictive. There's only one thing left for the series here, and it's for Chapter 4 to try to top itself again.
Rating for the film: ★★☆
Have you seen John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum? What do you think?