The action doesn’t get more epic than in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, the third chapter in the John Wick mythos and this time around things get heightened to an all-new explosive level resulting in a piece of action cinema for the ages.
Legendary hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) must fight his way out of New York when a $14 million contract on his life makes him the target of the world’s top assassins. Being declared as excommunicado after killing D’Antonio on Continental grounds, the chances of survival have never been thinner for Wick. With the aid of old allies, John seeks to turn the tide.
In John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum we once again see the return of Hollywood legend Keanu Reeves and his director Chad Stahelski, and the result is pure genius. Ever since 2014’s John Wick, Stahelski has raised the bar for what is capable in action cinema and here in John Wick: Chapter 3 he pushes his craft even further with some of the most awe-inspiring action set pieces ever committed to film. Balancing both a growing scope of epic proportions with a film that is still uniquely intimate, and the result is a mind-expanding cinematic feat that really opens your eyes.
Continuing with his ‘action as narrative’ philosophy, Stahelski and his team at 87Eleven elevate the action of John Wick: Chapter 3 to a whole new level, while again using it as a way to explore the narrative and character of their lead character. Broken, bloody and with the reality of excammunicado knocking at his door, Keannu Reeves’s legendary assassin John Wick is very much in survival mode and the audience gets to see him in a different light. While in the first two films the character was very much in a proactive state of mind, here he finds himself in a reactive persona as he is doing everything he can to simply survive. Stahelski understands the thriller genre intimately and he uses a tight time setting and ticking clock to really push his lead character to the very edges of his limits and this allows the director’s action orientated mind plenty of creative freedom to dream up some awe-inspiring action sequences.
Once again Keanu Reeves pulls on his jacket, notches his tie and lock and loads as legendary assassin John Wick and he’s really up against the wall this time. With increasing enemies all around him, the Baba Yaga is forced into some very compromising situations and it allows us to see a new side to the character. In this film, we see the conflict around him tearing at his internal character, especially at the love he shares for his deceased wife Helen (Bridget Monahan), the one true person who ever allowed him any chance of freedom and this really creates some intense conflict for the character. Again Reeves is just a consummate professional on-screen and he really throws himself into the craziness of the action that explodes around him, and his actions will literally make audiences jump out of their seats.
Joining Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 3 is Halle Berry, and damn does she make one hell of an impression on audiences here. Her character of Sofia, a dangerous and capable assassin is pulled into Wick’s journey of mayhem and she is absolutely none-so pleased as having to put her life on the line to help Wick. This of-course sets the stage for a very interesting character dynamic between the two of them and Berry absolutely proves herself as Reeves equal when she gets on the trigger. Double-tapping adversaries at an alarming rate, Berry’s Sofia is possessed of cat-like agility as she does close-quarter battle alongside Wick in what I must say is the film’s most exciting sequence. And like Reeve’s Wick she’s also an animal lover and is joined by a pair of ferocious Belgian Malinois attack dogs whom see unleashes for lethal effect. You couldn’t find an actress more fitting to fight alongside Reeves, and Belle really goes for it in every way possible.
Also returning to the fold for a third appearance is the quintessentially charismatic Ian McShane as Winston, the head of the New York Continental, and one of Wick’s last true friends, and he will have to pay for his friendship this time. McShane’s elegant performance has long been one of the best parts of the John Wick franchise and his position as Wick’s confident and advisor takes an all the more interesting turn this time around. With each new installment the John Wick franchise finds new ways to develop its characters further, and in John Wick: Chapter 3 it’s interesting to see how John’s friendship with Winston effects both men in this very dangerous and unpredictable world that they both operate in.
John Wick: Chapter 3 also gets some great new blood this time around in the form of both Mark Dacascos and Asia Kate Dillon. Dacascos, a martial arts cinema icon stars as Zero, a lethal Japanese assassin whose Ninja ferocity and skill with a katana makes for seriously good cinema. Brutally efficient and lethally focused, Zero makes for a great test of John Wick’s skills and watching Dacascos and Reeves go up against one another is an absolute treat for action fans. Then there’s Asia Kate Dillon who stars as The Adjudicator, a corporate and clinical box ticker whose managerial agenda and haughty arrogance makes for a despicable villain and Dillon really gets under your skin.
You wanted action. You got it. And man oh man is it something out of this world. With each successive addition to the John Wick franchise, Stahelski and his team have elevated the bar, and here they reach a whole new level. You’ve got gun fights, knife fights, tomahawk fights, dog attacks, a lethal cocktail of jiu jitsu, judo, karate, kick boxing, pencat silat, arnis, and mixed martial arts, a stunning motorcycle chase scene that dials up the word EPIC to a 1000 and a horse chase-fight combination scene that destroys all expectations. In short, Stahelski packs his film with everything and more and you’ll be salivating with the action that explodes on screen before you. With so much action to choose from there’s something for everyone and as for the sequence that really got me going I have to choose Reeves/Berry’s double-team close quarter battle scene as my favourite. It was just out of this world! Action fans, you will not be disappointed with John Wick: Chapter 3.
Along with elevating the action of John Wick: Chapter 3, the setting also gets a major upgrade and we find ourselves leaving New York for the fair shores of Casablanca. It’s a location and a setting that completely lit my heart on fire, first for it’s homage to Bogart’s classic role in the eponymous 1942 film, a hallmark of the film noir genre, but also for the new environment that we find Wick in. This new cultural setting is packed full of colour and atmosphere, and the Casablanca Continental is a mythical location that you’d definitely want to spend the night at. Alongside Casablanca, there’s also the grandeur of New York City and as always Stahelski and his team turn it into one hell of a playground for their bogeyman hero.
If you’re searching for some beauty amongst the carnage then you’ll most definitely find it here, because as an execution of the cinematic art form John Wick: Chapter 3 is gorgeous. Bathed in neon light and shot with a eye for high sheen, cinematographer Dan Laustsen crafts a beautifully rendered piece of cinema. His evocative use of light and shadow, and strongly defined compositions really keep you in the centre of the action and the resulting images have tremendous power. Laustsen also defines his style for each location with New York again taking on his hyper-masculine neon edge, while his focus on Casablanca results in a more earthy and rustic pallette. The costuming and props are again out of this world, and Reeves has quite the arsenal to play with this time and the use of Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ is the perfect final touch.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is an opus of action cinema and is one of the most fun times you’re ever likely to have in the cinema. Your adrenaline will really get dialed up with this one and Keanu Reeves turns in one hell of a performance. Action cinema simply doesn’t get much better than this.
Image: Studio Canal