John Wick Chapter 3 - Parabellum
The 3rd chapter of the beloved John Wick series is finally here! How does Parabellum stack up? Can John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum up the ante on insane fight choreography? Find out in our official review!
Have You Met John Wick?
When last we saw John Wick (Keanu Reeves), he had just disposed of Santino D’Antonio, a newly-minted member of the High Table, in the middle of The Continental. The manager of the hotel, Winston (Ian McShane), had given Mr. Wick an hour head-start before he became excommunicado and acquired a $14 million bounty on his head. With his beloved pooch by his side, Wick began to run through the busy, dangerous streets of New York City.
That is where John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum begins.
From the jump, it’s a heart-pounding thrill ride as John Wick sprints from place to place, trying to find some sort of refuge from the onslaught of assassins hunting him down. Each altercation features the insane combat we’ve come to love from a John Wick film. We’ll take plenty of time to highlight that in a moment, but first let’s get into the world of John Wick.
In each John Wick film, we’ve come to understand more and more about this wicked world and its, seemingly, ancient rules. The first film dipped our toe into the world as John Wick came out of his retirement to mourn his deceased wife and avenge his fallen puppy. We didn’t learn much there, except that this world of Assassins existed. John Wick 2 saw us fall even further down the rabbit hole, as we began to learn more about the High Table, the underground, and the meaning behind sacred bonds. It’s been fascinating, to say the least. However, what have we learned about the man himself.
John Wick 3 serves to provide us with more backstory behind Mr. Wick. We get to discover where he comes from, how he was raised. We learn that there are even more unspoken rules, we previously had not heard of. The story opens up further to give us insight into the deeds John Wick performed over the years, including helping Sofia (Halle Berry) who reluctantly helps him, in turn.
This is exactly what we needed from the 3rd John Wick film. While it has been cool to watch a death machine mow down enemies for an hour and a half, it was finally time to discover more about the character we’ve enjoyed for 2 movies. Before John Wick 3, the most anyone knew about Mr. Wick was that he fell in love, lost his wife, lost his dog, and could kill a guy in any variety of ways. Now we have a good understanding of how he can do that and what the loss of his wife, his dog, and really his retirement truly meant to him.
Furthermore, the movie provides further expansion of an already rich world, by instilling even more culture and reach. John Wick 2 set us free to explore this world throughout Europe. John Wick 3 brings us the dangerous sands of Africa to find the man who leads the High Table. It adds even more intrigue and continues to build a fascinating world.
Unbelievable, Unthinkable Stunts/Deaths
The John Wick franchise has featured some of the most ridiculous fights and deaths in film history, disguised under the fighting style of gun fu. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a mix of gunplay and martial arts. With each film, they’ve tried to up the ante on the choreography and the insane ways to kill people. John Wick 1 featured an iconic moment of John Wick using a car to drive around and shoot people down. John Wick 2 showed John Wick killing a man with a pencil, as was foretold in the previous film.
John Wick Chapter 3 makes what he did in those first two films look like child’s play. Without spoiling what exactly he does to kill people, I will talk about the tools he uses to bring down his foes. If you thought killing people with a pencil was impressive, John Wick 3 sees him use a book, horses, blades, guns, dogs, and his fists in some of the most bonkers scenes I’ve ever seen in film.
It’s insane, it’s unbelievable, it’s unthinkable, and it’s absolutely can’t-miss cinema. Well-performed martial arts in the movies have always produced epic moments in movies, but what they do in John Wick always feels different. From the way they conceptualize to how they pull it all off, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before and it’s fantastic. The backstory and the world building is fantastic, the story at times is meh, but the action and choreography is absolutely extraordinary.
Strange, Cartoonish Villain With An Iffy Resolution
As I mentioned before, as a whole, the third John Wick film is fantastic. That said, there were some character and overall direction choices I found to be strange. Starting with the character choices, we look in the direction of the villain of Parabellum.
In reality, there are actually two villains, the assassin Zero (Mark Dacascos) and the person who hired him, The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon). For the most part, The Adjudicator is simply a woman trying to do her job and restore order after Wick broke the rules of The Continental and killed a member of the High Table. Her role is to punish those who help Wick in any way, and that includes Winston for giving him a 1-hour head start. I actually thought her character was very well-done, but it’s the assassin she hired, Zero, that I found a bit off-putting.
In the first two films, John Wick faced a Russian mobster and his petulant son and an ambitious self-righteous former employer. In Parabellum, he faces Zero who is as dangerous as he is comical. That’s because Zero is a fan of John Wick’s. So, instead of being a stoic, hateful villain, he conveys a somewhat jolly, happy presence while he takes out his enemies and fights Wick. That’s not to say it’s bad, but it’s a strange choice, as Zero feels more like a cartoon villain, rather than a formidable assassin, especially when facing John Wick. I actually like that they tried something different. It’s just that the cartoonish personality could’ve been reeled in a bit.
What I did have a major issue with was the way that the film ended. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil what happens, but the whole time The Adjudicator is going to war (Hence the meaning behind Parabellum), only to forgive one of the characters for really no reason. It serves as a vehicle to hint at a 4th chapter in the John Wick saga, but it was just a lazy way of doing it. By standing up for yourself and flexing power, you’re suddenly absolved? How does that make sense? It seemed like the writers knew they wanted to make another film, but couldn’t figure out how to facilitate the motions to make it happen. Thus, we got a confusing resolution I didn’t enjoy all that much. However, the result of us getting a 4th John Wick film is enough to overshadow that weak plot point.