Filmgoers were first introduced to the character of John Wick in 2014. Then came Chapter 2 in 2017 and now, the last of the trilogy, John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum, has been released. This action franchise, all made under the direction of Chad Stahelski, is the epitome of a cinematic thrill ride. All three films are chock full of every type of stunt and action sequence imaginable, from car and motorcycle chases, to extended gun, knife, and sword fights, to some precisely choreographed hand to hand combat scenes. All of these are set against an atmospheric background punctuated by grand neon-soaked set pieces, stunning locations, and slick cinematography. From start to finish, each John Wick film has held true to its promise of delivering filmgoers with a nonstop adrenaline rush.
Chapter 3 begins mere hours after the events of Chapter 2. The opening scenes of Parabellum (meaning ‘prepare for war’) take place during a dark and stormy night in New York City. A desperate Wick and his unnamed dog find themselves running for their lives while assassins seek to collect on a hefty bounty, lurking behind every corner. Wick has been deemed excommunicado by a powerful guild of international assassins known as the High Table and a $14 million bounty has been put on his head. With no resources and no one to turn to, Wick finds himself in a situation where it’s literally kill or be killed. Despite the odds wildly stacked against him, John Wick proves once again that he’s up to the challenge of staying alive.
In this latest chapter of the franchise, John Wick is joined by series regulars Ian McShane as hotel manager Winston, Lance Reddick as his assistant (and Wick’s go-to dogsitter) Charon, and Keanu Reeves’ Matrix alum Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King. In Chapter 3 newcomers to the cast include Anjelica Houston as the high powered Russian “Director”, Asia Kate Dillon as the Adjudicator, and Halle Berry as Sofia.
Berry’s appearance in John Wick 3 is somewhat disappointing given the Oscar winner’s star power and talent. Unfortunately, her character, Sofia, an upper level assassin at a guild compound in Casablanca, doesn’t really give her much to play with, nor does her presence add much to the narrative. Instead, her limited role barely provides the actress with an opportunity to prove her ability in the action genre as she is relegated to serving as Wick’s reluctant ally, shooting a few bad guys, and uttering cliched dialogue such as, “sometimes you have to kill what you love the most.”
Needless to say, John Wick 3 is all about atmosphere and action, not plot or narrative, so the central story becomes harder and harder to follow as the movie progresses. With its nonstop violence the film, which runs for a little over 2 hours, becomes repetitive, redundant, and loses focus after a short while. At times, Wick’s efforts to remain among the living start to feel more like an exercise in masochism than pure survival instinct. During the course of the film, he’s not only shot at but also severs his own finger, gets stabbed and branded, and wanders aimlessly to the brink of death in the hot Arabian desert.
Fans of the franchise won’t be disappointed in Chapter 3 due to the fact that there’s more than enough bloodletting, mayhem, and violence to fill up the film’s two-hour runtime. But, anyone looking for something deeper, or at least a better explanation as to the origin or inner workings of the High Table, will be left wanting more. John Wick – Parabellum proves once more that Keanu Reeves is an undeniably bankable and highly capable action star. All in all, though, this latest instalment could’ve used a tad less repetitive violence and a little more plot and character development.
John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum is now playing in theatres.