Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019)
Title: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Halle Berry, Lance Reddick, Laurence Fishburne, Asia Kate Dillon, Mark Dacascos, and Angelica Huston
Director: Chad Stahelski
Bias: I love puppies.
In A Nutshell: Picking up moments after John Wick 2, John Wick has been excommunicated from the omnipresent community of assassins he had previously been drawn back into. When the hour-long grace period he has been given expires, he must try to survive with a $14 million contract on his head, every hitman and hitwoman around the world looking for him, and none of the services and amenities provided to those in his profession.
The Critique: The John Wick films are something of an aberration in contemporary action films. The third installment in this series, which started in 2014, well into the box office dominance of the big-budget Marvel Cinematic Universe, opened just a few weeks after Avengers: Endgame. While that series has broken virtually every cinematic record and features the culmination of a decade of stories (and features state-of-the-art special effects to bring those to life), Wick is built around what is seemingly the bloodiest and most exhausting couple of weeks in the life of a man who is really, really good at killing. I've written about this before, but on the surface this is generic action movie fodder, elevated by gorgeous aesthetics and unexpected world-building. What I realized during the first 20 minutes of Parabellum is that it's also gloriously and ridiculously fun. It's filled with hyper-efficient violence as spectacle to such an absurd degree that's it's almost impossible not to sit back in awe of what you're seeing.
This third film leans more into the absurdity more than the previous two (to its benefit, as the plot is not all that different from John Wick 2) and it's grounded by the performance by Keanu Reeves. I'm going to make a bold claim, here, but Reeves as Wick is as iconically cool as Bruce Lee or Clint Eastwood's The Man With No Name. He's equally compelling when selling the pain and sadness that's driven the character since the opening of the first film, trading quips with Winston (McShane), or battling the deadly John Wick fanboy played by Mark Dacascos who has been sent by the Adjudicator (Dillon) to kill him. There are many moments in the film where you'll likely have the thought, "Shouldn't he be dead?" and Reeves will convince you both that he should be, and that of course he isn't.
As with the two previous films, Parabellum is beautifully staged and shot by Stahelski, giving each sequence of fairly unrelenting fight scenes their own look and flow. The screenplay continues to reveal intriguing tidbits about the world of the series, shifts relationships and allegiances, and moves the overall plot incrementally forward (and that incrementalism is largely what keeps this at an A, rather than an A+) while also allowing the audience to learn just enough about Wick, his background, and his particular morality. At this point, though, this series is giving me everything I want for the 2+ hours I'm watching each film.
Shout-Out: Oh, the good dogs! Such good dogs!
To Go, to Rent, or to Stream:
In between viewings of Avengers: Endgame (which is awesome in all kinds of different ways) you should take a couple of hours to see this in a theater, preferably with a crowd.