John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (2019)
Director: Chad Stahelski | Runtime: 2h 11mins | Action, Thriller
As John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finds himself ex-communicado he tries to call in any last favours he can to reach the leader of the high table, in an attempt to reverse the decision. While John is on the run, the table sends an adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) to deal with any remaining allies of Wick.
The John Wick franchise has evolved tremendously since the first offering of Keanu Reeves ‘retired’ hitman in 2014, and since then has morphed into a popular culture phenomenon with it’s own unique world. While the first film is merely a revenge story for the death of a pet, it’s second instalment gave us the world that John Wick left behind, a hitman community rich with cultish rules and rituals that give the franchise it’s biggest selling point. The third (and definitely not final) John Wick delves deeper into this hierarchy of contract killers while also continuing the running tone of Wick’s one-man rampage, and with a title like ‘Parabellum’, you can be sure Wick is definitely preparing for war.
The film starts off exactly where the second ended, with the films hero against the clock, scrambling to find a place to hide as his ex-communication becomes active in just 20 minutes. These first 20 minutes are undeniably the star of the show, leaving you in a perpetual state of anticipation as Wick fights wave after wave of people, using everything and anything to aid him. Starting with a book-based sparring session in a library and eventually leading to a gun/knife throwing fight in what looks like a museum, every single fight is choreographed to perfection. It seems as well that despite the first two films being pretty action focus anyway, they’ve upped the anti even more and given some of the best hand-to-hand action sequences since The Raid (2011). This is a constant trend that the film finds in all it’s action, whether it’s the canine accompanied shootout in Morocco or the finale, the film has variation to keep things fresh but finds solace in a consistent style in everything it attempts.
Despite the first 20 minutes really sitting in the mind for the majority of the film, it still has to have some sense of narrative. This is where the film gets into it’s own world and provides us with some much needed clarity to both it’s protagonist and the world he’s fighting. For example, Wick’s upbringing is brought to light in a strange Belarusian ballet school led by the legendary Angelica Huston, and in probably the best addition to the John Wick franchise, Halle Berry comes in as a cross-continent hotel owner that not only brings yet another great character designed for popular culture, but also stretches this community worldwide. The narrative is also thickened by the introduction of the yet another nameless character know as the ‘The Adjudicator’, played by Asia Kate Dillon, who makes her way to many of Wick’s associates and threatens them with the power of the higher table. Along with the Belarusian ballet school, the paradise of Casablanca, Dillon’s adjudicator adds to the world but never steals focus from the action itself.
Arguably the biggest problem that this film has, is the danger of becoming a parody of itself. With such a unique stance on the contract killer story, it’s easy to see it being a copycat format for films in the future, and unfortunately some aspects of the third instalment start to feel just that way. The biggest aspect is John Wick’s meeting with the leader of the ‘higher table’, who’s only possible to meet through walking in the Desert for days until he shows himself. This part of the film feels like too much, that the community that’s been built is slowly being turned into a pseudo-religion, with mythical leaders and symbolic finger dismemberment. But the franchise is yet to go full parody, and still continues to leave a staple on popular culture.
Whether or not you watch John Wick for the action, unique story or Keanu Reeves in his most iconic and stoic role since The Matrix (1999), it’s safe to say that the franchise is still consistently creating an interesting and unique experience both in story and world building. While it is in danger of becoming a parody of itself, the present is still a promising time for John Wick, and the first twenty minutes of the film is the best action you’ll see this year.