MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Action-Thriller/ Stars: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Tobias Segal, Anjelica Huston, Saïd Taghmaoui, Jerome Flynn, Randall Duk Kim, Margaret Daly, Robin Lord Taylor, Susan Blommaert, Jason Mantzoukas, Cecep Arif Rahman, Yayan Ruhian, Roger Yuan, Tiger Chen, Boban Marjanović/ Runtime: 130 minutes
I think it’s safe to say that had it been made at any other time and by any other lead actor/filmmaking team then the iconic 2014 slice of cinematic pie that was the first John Wick would have resulted in a movie that was good but nothing truly special and not especially something that if you were a studio you could possibly in a million years see yourself attempting to make a franchise out of. Yet when the hands of iconic actor Keanu Reeves and a pair of stuntmen transformed into film helmers by the name of David Leitch and Chad Stahelski respectively got their hands on this distinct and novel tale about a former and quite notorious assassin coming out of retirement to seek vengeance against those who personally wronged him as well as anyone who dared to get in his way of achieving his goal, the result was pure lightning in a bottle at worst and nothing less than a novel, engaging, and riveting cinematic ride at best. More astonishing than that however is not the fact that this movie got a sequel, but rather it was the fact that the subsequent follow-up released in 2017 proved to be just as good if not better than its predecessor. Thus as a result of the terrific reception from both critics and the general movie going public towards John Wick Chapter 2 we now arrive at the third entry in this saga, 2019’s John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum, and yes I know that under normal circumstances the key to getting the most out of a slice of cinematic pie in this vein is that you have to turn your brain off to truly enjoy the film and with the amount of action and intrigue this movie chooses to operate with, you would be forgiven for thinking that this time-honored element was a key component to this film as well. Of course whilst you would be forgiven you would also be wrong in practically every way as well. I say this because through an electric blend of action that is both stylish and visceral to the hilt, a dark yet enjoyable style of comedy, and a riveting locale that is able to become both more intimate and by the same token more enigmatic each and every time we as movie goers get the delightful chance to immerse ourselves in it, John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum is able to make for yet another phenomenal entry in this franchise that at the same time gives us a slice of cinematic pie that not only works as a wonderful textbook example of how to make an entry in the action genre of movie magic, but also (like its predecessor) leaves things in an intriguing place where you’re not sure where things will go from here, but you can’t wait to see where they do go all the same.
The plot is as follows: Picking up in the immediate aftermath of the previous chapter which saw our favorite dog-avenging assassin facing an impending excommunicado claim and subsequent 14 million dollar bounty on his head due to murdering Santino D’Antonio on Continental grounds with his only reprieve being an hour head start provided by his dear friend Winston, we see that whilst John is busy running around New York getting some quick last minute errands done that some much necessary clean-up is also in order for both the world of assassins and at the N.Y.C. branch of the Continental. It is with that in mind that the High Table is swift in sending out an agent of theirs known as an Adjudicator in order to clean this mess up and deal with John Wick and those who assisted him however they see fit. Thus with John on the run and desperately trying to find some way, anyway to get this giant target off his back and Winston, The Bowery King, and anyone else who has either aided or aids Wick facing severe penalty for doing so, it soon becomes apparent that something big is coming on the horizon. Something that, should it come to pass, has the very real possibility of taking this whole world of assassins to say nothing of the laws that govern it and turning it completely upside down for good.
Now right off the bat I am just going to come right out and say that the action beats in this are just downright incredible. I mean one of the things that I really loved about the first two installments in this series is how they approach the fights in as gritty, realistic, and just downright brutal as possible, but with the addition that in the moments where the action is mano a mano it really does feel like you are watching a dance between two people if one of them is about to be brutally murdered by the other one. Yet whilst this one has those moments to be sure, there are also moments in this that are even more impressive from John Wick and new character Sofia with her 2 dogs (of course) taking on dozens of guys in Casablanca, John on horseback fighting off guys in New York City, a fight sequence taking place entirely on motorcycles, and an epic third act fight with John and a character I won’t spoil taking on a literal Special Forces-style hit squad in a darkened building. Suffice it to say then that the action in this chapter is not only some of the best we have seen out of this franchise yet, but also I would be prepared to say some of the most well done and just downright brutal action sequences I have seen in a slice of cinematic pie in the past 5-10 years easily (with some exceptions being Mad Max: Fury Road, Logan, and of course the first two John Wick movies).
Yet whilst the stylish and wonderfully visceral and brutal action beats are still just as amazing as ever in this film, this movie also deserves praise for managing to be our most immersive look yet at the lore at the heart of this series especially when it comes to the prisms of both the institutions of The Continental and the High Table as well as more of an in-depth analysis into the rules of this truly distinct world and the fallout that can occur from breaking said rules respectively. Indeed the audience right from the very first installment has been familiar with the fact that there is a code of sorts that attempts to keep things in this cinematic world as orderly and chaos-free as possible and with each new installment, there has been more and more reasons for the cast of characters to immerse us as guests of this unique yet riveting world in these rules. Suffice it to say that in this installment we get perhaps a greatest glimpse yet courtesy of the brutal cleanup act by this movie’s dynamic antagonistic duo in the forms of ruthless John Wick fanboy Zero and the icy Adjudicator respectively that they find themselves engaging in. Yet whilst both are determined to ensure that John’s and to a lesser yet still brutal extent his allies from the last film’s actions are answered for and paid for to the fullest extent possible, they still have distinct methods in getting that particularly job accomplished. Suffice it to say then that between the incredible physical work done by Mark Dacascos and Asia Kate Dillon bringing a stone cold yet resolute vibe of unflinching and unyielding authority, this dynamic duo do a wonderful job at being quite the nuisances for our hero and his allies to have to contend with throughout the duration of the film’s 130 minute runtime. At the same time though I guess I should also praise the fact that the increased grasp of the High Table in this film doesn’t ever once feel either forced or like something the studio demanded this movie accomplish; instead it actually does feel like an organic growth to this incredible world we have gotten to see over the course of these films slowly but surely expand before our very eyes to say nothing of being the natural fallout to occur from the events at the end of the previous film and as such it is handled amazingly well.
Finally, it should also be said that the cast in this all do an amazing job with their respective parts no matter how big or how small not only at playing their respective characters, but also in further fleshing out the world of this truly iconic and novel franchise. This starts out, understandably, with series lead Keanu Reeves as the titular character and once again he is terrific at not only giving us a tiny bit more of this character’s fairly enigmatic backstory, but also in delivering a serious bullet to the head or just general beat down. Yet unlike the first 2 installments, this one makes the ingenious choice to have John go through the wringer a bit more due to dealing with people who are pretty close to his own skill level pretty much the whole movie and as such whilst he does kick some serious butt he also from time to time gets his own butt handed to him as well. We also get wonderful return work in this from Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, and Laurence Fishburne even if the last name is merely in this for about 30 minutes tops in order to, without spoiling how, set up another installment, but thankfully McShane’s arc in this as Winston and getting to see Lance Reddick’s concierge Charon get to show that he too can kick some serious butt and not just look imposing more than makes up for that. I also really liked a few of the newcomers in this besides the previously mentioned Asia Kate Dillon and Mark Dacascos respectively with particular regard to the always delightful Angelica Huston as the stern yet motherly Director despite her role being almost an extended cameo of sorts and Halle Berry who, as a character named Sofia, is a big part of this film’s 2nd act and who does such an amazing job in this that her character honestly deserves her own spin-off film.
All in all though and at the end of the day I am delighted to say that, as stated at the very beginning of this review, John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum is an absolute blast for fans of the action genre of movie magic from beginning to end. Indeed not only does the action in this one far and away surpass anything that we have seen in this series to date, but the fact that it continues with one of the distinct trademarks of the series in that it feels not only both authentic and grounded, but also more like we are watching a gun, fist, or whatever weapons happen to be on hand dance makes it even more impressive. Thus when you mix together said riveting and organic action beats alongside a narrative that continues to draw you further and further in with each installment and a wonderful cast of characters both old and new led by main star Keanu Reeves who, it should come as no surprise, is once again purely electric and engaging in the lead role then what you get isn’t just a terrific action movie, but also a fanfreakingtastic slice of cinematic pie period that I can promise you that you will want to sit down and watch time and time again. Now bring on Part 4! On a scale of 1-5 I give John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum a solid 4 out of 5.