John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) continues the best action series of this decade in a strong fashion. Director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves deliver the next entry, which continues to evolve the world and characters established back in John Wick (2014) – although there are a few elements that feel like character missteps. Even so, you can’t deny how excellent this film is, and how the continued weaving of comedic elements – started with Laurence Fishburne’s character in Chapter 2 – manage to make this dark action thriller even more entertaining.
John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum changes the tone of the series, but still gives plenty of action to love
Be warned that John Wick Chapter 1 and 2 will be spoiled in this review, but Chapter 3 – Parabellum will remain spoiler-free. John Wick is on the run after being listed as excommunicado by the Continental, and a 14 million dollar bounty on his head has every assassin in the world looking to make the kill. He seeks out any contacts who might be willing to help him, leading him on a worldwide journey in hopes of staying alive.
Fan of the first two films will be happy to see that the action hasn’t deviated much. The set pieces are a little bigger, and many of the fights feel a little prolonged, with fewer henchmen dying in each. This is one of the few issues I really had with the movie, as Wick’s tactical style of fighting has felt like such a defining characteristic. Instead of quick takedowns and multiple kills, the fights in John Wick Chapter 3 are often prolonged with far fewer kills, which is more traditional of other action movies. The bad guys fall down to the awesome fighting skills of Wick, but unlike the previous two films where he would finish them, he often chooses to leave them alive, allowing them to get back up and into the fight again. Not a major complaint, but one that kept nagging at me, forcing me to rewatch the second film before writing this to confirm my observations.
Despite that nitpick, I really enjoyed so much of the story in Chapter 3. The world building of the John Wickiverse has, from the beginning, been one of my favorite things. It grew quite a bit in Chapter 2, and that continues exponentially in the new film. The number of assassins implied by the last scene in Chapter 2 was a little alarming, as it seems to indicate that most of New York, at the very least, is actually just a bunch of assassins. So, going into this movie, there was an awareness that Wick would be on the run for a majority of the film – and it works for some fun action as he tries to escape New York. The infamous scene of him fighting guys on motorcycles while he was upon a horse, which was a highlight of the marketing campaign, really sets both the running tone and the action’s heightened reality.
Over three films, we’ve been introduced to several other important characters like Winston (Ian McShane) and Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), who return for this entry. However, much like we get to see another Continental in the second film, Wick travels to yet another location to meet with an old friend, Sofia (Halle Barry). Her character and the back story – which is heavily dumped in a scene of quick exposition – lead to some very cool action sequences. There are a few other characters who get far less to do, and some work better than others. The clear standout is Zero (Mark Dacascos), who becomes a sort of a rival to Wick. I’ve been familiar with Dacascos for a long time, and I didn’t even recognize him in this role. He’s the perfect level of camp and action that really make his scenes memorable.
Odds are that if you are a fan of the first two films, you’ll be satisfied with the third. I have been itching to go and watch it again. The John Wick movies have been among my favorite over the last five years, and I’m glad they’ve yet to make any major missteps. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.