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‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ Review: Dir. Chad Stahelski (2019)

by Kat Hughes

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum review: Everyone’s favourite pencil-wielding assassin returns for the third chapter of the John Wick franchise. This time John finds himself hunted by everyone after being excommunicated for breaking Continental rules. 

Lionsgate UK

Five years ago directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, and actor Keanu Reeves, introduced the world to retired assassin, John Wick. The film was a massive sleeper-hit, and after generating mass appreciation, began a new action thriller franchise. Leitch may have left to direct the likes of Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, but Stahelski has stayed, directing both John Wick Chapter 2 and the latest film, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Picking-up mere moments after the cliffhanger of the second chapter, John Wick 3 sees Wick excommunicated from all criminal underground resources for his actions against the High Table, with a $14 million bounty on his head. Desperate, and with nowhere else to turn, he calls upon people from his long-forgotten past, but can he survive the insurmountable odds?

With the first two films both being solid and well-received movies, John Wick 3 has a tough act to follow, but Stahelski might have saved the best for (what is at least now being called) the last part of John Wick’s story. The film opens with a mighty bang as John races around the streets of New York, seeking to make the most out of his sixty-minute grace period granted by Winston. He uses this time to check-out the library, take the dog for a walk, and visit the doctor. Once his time is up, the action kicks in, the throttle turned all the way up, and full-blown carnage explodes onto the screen in spectacular fashion.

Given Stahelski’s background in stunts, the action work is once more superb. Each film in the series has offered us tons of imaginative set pieces; the first film had The Red Circle sequence, the second had the Hall of Reflection, but here it’s hard to pick just one to praise. There’s the opening library altercation, a smack-down in Chinatown, a knife-fight in an antique store, some horse-fu (the best ‘man on a horse’ action sequence since True Lies), sword-fighting on motorcycles, some brilliant attack-dog-fu, and an epic climatic battle just to name a few. Each fight scene seems to somehow out-perform the last one, and Stahelski has created a film that, at it’s core, is simply a masterclass in action.

Previous John Wick films have seen John face down multiple bad guys, although the main targets haven’t really had much fight in them. This time around, with John a wanted man, he gets some very worthy adversaries. Essentially it’s the pencil and sumo fight montage from the second film for the entire run-time, but it’s Marc Dacascos whom has the mantle of main bad-guy. He’s like nothing like what we’ve seen in a John Wick film before, a master of martial arts, and leader of a band of Shinobi’s – that’s right, John Wick now has ninjas. His character Zero appears and disappears from nowhere, a true silent assassin. He’s also something of a John Wick fanatic, which offers up the expected John Wick brand of wry humour.

It’s not just about the baddies though, this time John’s allies also take centre stage. Both Winston and The Bowery King get their own sub-plots as they face the consequences of aiding John in the last film. These sub-plots give the fan favourite characters their own time to shine out from under the Wick shadow; this does clog up the run-time a little however, and on occasion John Wick 3 starts to feel its 112 minute length. We are also introduced to Sofia, played by Halle Berry, an old acquaintance of John’s, and one whom owes him a favour. It’s the best role Berry has had in years, and one that allows her to demonstrate just how good she can be in an action film. Early screening reactions have called for her character to get her own spin-off, so you can imagine just how bad-ass she is. It might also help that she is the owner of those dog-fu canines.

Keanu is once more clearly having the time of his life in what may well be the role of his career (sorry Neo, Ted and Johnny Utah) and leaves no skill underutilised to continue John’s story. His commitment to the character is immense and as we’ve said on the previous films, it makes all the difference to see and know that it is really is Keanu doing everything. Outside of the fighting the film also delves heavily into John’s past. John Wick 3 finally answers some of those loose end questions that have been mounting-up since the first film; questions about John’s background and those magic gold coins, amongst others, are addressed. It’s nice to get a bit more detail about the underworld and the enigmatic John, but the information isn’t dwelled upon. Rather, the nods serve almost as Easter eggs for fans of the series to discover and enjoy, but isn’t so in your face as to alienate those not indoctrinated into the cult of Wick.

From the explosive opening to the epic finale, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is an adrenaline charged assault to the senses. A cacophony of bullets, broken glass and samurai swords, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum launches everything in it’s arsenal to send the franchise out on a high. Though given how insane this is, we’re thinking he might be back.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum review by Kat Hughes, May 2019.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum opens in cinemas on Wednesday 15th May 2019.

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