So basically don’t fuck with John Wick, even if you have a legion of evil assassin minions at your disposal. Got it.
Taking place directly after the last chapter, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum sees our titular assassin in a bad spot after committing an unsanctioned kill inside of the “no kill” neutral zone known as the Continental Hotel. Now officially stripped of his Continental privileges and declared “excommunicado”, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is on the run and on the clock as nearly every assassin in a ten-mile radius chases him down for the $14 million bounty placed on his head. With friends and foes alike helping or hurting his cause, John must find a way to survive the onslaught of hired murderers coming for him, all the while trying to find a way to clear his name and bring blood-spattered justice to those who have wronged him. Lots and lots of killing ensues.
Speaking of killing, this movie had to have broken a record for how many people are straight up murdered onscreen. I mean I’ve seen a lot of movies and I’ve seen a lot of death and dismemberment in said movies, but I can’t to my recollection think of another film that has this high of a body count – all taken out by one person mind you. Through a constant, oddly beautiful sense of brutal fight choreography, returning director Chad Stahelski knows where his bread is buttered and slops on that shit like nobody’s watching. Being a stuntman himself, Stahelski is able to imbue the generous amount of fight scenes with a visceral feeling of urgency, danger, violence and oddly enough, amazement.
Living in a world where everything in Hollywood can be faked and VFX shots rule supreme, getting a franchise like John Wick almost exclusively to rely on real stunt work and cinematography that compliments these stunts, is simply a sight to behold. The filmmakers seem to almost be showing off their technical prowess with these fight scenes, as they direct and stage actors and stunt people alike with barely any room for error, imbuing each fight with an impressive sense of accomplishment that is hard to ignore. With the addition of Sofia (Halle Berry) and her impeccably trained Belgian Malinois, the filmmakers have upped their game in more ways than I can count, truly giving audiences an edge of your seat thrill ride that barely lets up. All I have to say is that a book and a bunch of knives make this film better than most action films in recent memory.
All that being said, the feeling of slowly being desensitized to the fights that are happening at a breakneck (literally) speed gets pretty bad by the third act. It’s not that the fights have lost their energy, pizzazz or excitement, it’s just that after seeing probably over a hundred people getting absolutely destroyed by our protagonist and about 75% of the movie being all white knuckle action, it was hard to care about anything more than what I had already experienced by the time the final battle rolled around. Add in a few weird story beats that really are more nitpicky on my end than anything, and some scenes that are dangerously close to becoming a bit too over-the-top action-wise, and you have a film that doesn’t overstay its welcome, but might come close to doing so in future installments if the few rough edges of this franchise aren’t smoothed out.
Exhilarating, inventive, heart pounding and brutally violent, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is yet another great entry into a series that shows no signs of stopping. The fight choreography is tight and thrilling, the world building deeper and more nuanced and the performances spot on with just the right amount of cheese and tongue-in-cheek quips, all of which makes this threequel a rare achievement in terms of upping the ante, going for broke and sticking the landing. Sure there’s a few story problems here and there, and the third act most definitely gives you the feeling of “battle fatigue”, but overall this franchise is the benchmark for how action films should be made, and with a fourth installment already on the way, the wait is already killing me (bad reach of a pun intended).