“JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM” is in theaters this weekend. Keanu Reeves in back in the lead along with familiar faces Ian McShane and Lance Reddick. Halle Berry, Asia Kate Dillon, Mark Dacascos and Anjelica Huston have been added to the cast and Chad Stahelski is back in the directors’ chair. This one sees Wick just after being branded excommunicado with a $14 million-dollar bounty placed on his head. With his resources cut from him Wick will fight like never before to simply stay alive. The entire organization is hunting him, and Wick will have no choice but to rely on some old friends for help if he wants to live.
For me the action-genre has always been a favorite. When the first “John Wick” came out I appreciated the westernized approach in crafting a martial-arts film with an already recognizable star in the lead. Action stars of the past like JCVD, Seagal, Stallone and even today’s names like Statham have built lasting careers off making routine action movies alone. But to me they have not been able to accomplish what Reeves has in terms of action intricacy and the level of difficulty that we have seen from the sequences in these three movies. Something he has also been able to pull off much later in his career. It’s awesome to put in perspective that Reeves who has a wide range of genres under his belt could step into a practical action franchise and blow the competition out of the water.
I wanted this movie to up the intensity levels to create a climactic film that felt like the true culmination of the prior two and I think it succeeded. It shoots out of the gate like a bullet and it’s a thrill ride of fists, kicks, knives, motorcycles, swords, a horse, a book, endless guns, and a couple of dogs as Wick fights for survival for two-hours. And it was magnificent. These movies may not be for everyone, but I view them as grounded hyper-realistic adventures that are much like comic-book and science-fiction blockbusters without the science and with a black three-piece suite instead of an iron one.
These are meant for fun and for crafting adrenaline pumping action and this third film in the franchise ups the ante in all the amazing ways I was hoping. It delivers a continuous string of sequences and set pieces I had never seen before which I appreciated. The fight-choreography and the execution of the stunt-work was fantastic. It was stylized but still gritty and visceral and I was up in my seat throughout as head-shots, knife strikes, and waves of gratuitous killing proceeds with a violent elegance that had me smiling from ear-to-ear.
The narrative does deliver many of the same tropes as the prior films, but it felt the script explores them deeper to keep it feeling fresh. We get to learn more about the inner-workings of the assassin underworld. We get more of the Continental but through layers we haven’t seen. We learn more about the hierarchy of control and the high-table and it was both charming and interesting to see more pieces of the larger picture fall into place. I enjoyed how this film was able to continue building the world behind the main plot-line while never getting in the way of what we want to see, Keanu Reeves as John Wick killing people with a subtle gusto.
Halle Berry is the focal addition to the cast, and she killed it in this role with the same level of effort put into the physical action that Reeves invested. She was capable and smooth with her choreography and with both of them doing a majority of their own stunts, the views were consistency appealing as the camera sits back and lets the violence progress. I thought the story created a compelling backdrop for her character that fit her edginess perfectly and her chemistry with Reeves was spot-on for the needs of their character dynamics. Lance Reddick and Ian McShane once again were both excellent in their roles and it was awesome to see their characters evolve more than what simple layers the past two films have given us.
Chad Stahelski’s direction was crisp, stylish, artistic, and perfectly tailored once again to the atmosphere of the story. There is a constant luxuriousness to the vibe of these films, and it comes from the world of the story. The colors, selection of locations, the set-designs and lighting all blend together to create a classy appeal. Many backdrops are contemporary with futuristic influences, that create a level of sophistication to them. Then others were very old, but ornate with the same elegance and feeling of endless wealth that effectively creates an appealing mystique. All of which I feel Stahelski captures on camera with a subtle precision to create clean visually appealing landscapes for endless waves of graceful killing. This was a thrill-ride of action that gives us some of what we have seen before, and a ton of stuff we haven’t. The ambition to create a satisfying third film was noticeable and it succeeds with perfection. I went in with high expectations and it delivered what I wanted, a two-hour mental escape of well-crafted action, dry humor, and a perfect amount of self-awareness.