Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
You’d think that there would eventually be a moment where watching John Wick deliver well placed head shots while fighting for his life against endless swaths of assassins would start to feel redundant but that moment, if it will ever come, is nowhere to be found in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. While like it’s direct predecessor it doesn’t manage to emulate the laser focus of the first film this instalment manages to strike a balance between that straightforward approach and the more lore heavy nature of the second film, all while maintaining a different enough style to feel distinct. It’s a degree removed from the tactical reality of the last two films, with the action scenes again based around the cleanly choreographed gunplay but this time with a certain theatrical flourish that sees Wick using everything from a book to a belt to a horse to dispatch his foes. Not only is it fitting for his near mythic character but it meshes perfectly with the grand, almost operatic style of the film.
The most important element of a John Wick film is of course the gunfights and as always director Chad Stahelski constructs some truly pulse pounding and breathtaking sequences. What’s different in this entry in the series is that so much more effort has been paid to the soundscape, and it pays off. The quality of the mix is almost at a McTiernan level quality, with every punch, kick, and gunshot sounding like a small explosive. When combined with the incredibly graceful and minutely directed fight choreography the result is riveting in it’s level of impactfulness. Another thing the film pays more attention to is the environments which adds a lot of colour and a visual drama that when combined with the construction of the actions scenes is just infinitely entertaining. Every motion whether it be a light jab to the midsection or a knife through the chest has purpose both in terms of the scene and the overall story.
Much of that pointedness comes from Keanu’s performance, as even in the more inventive moments he continuously exudes a controlled aura that makes it seem like he knows exactly what he’s doing. The way his character interacts with the expanding world is quite clever in that it covers over the newness of the material; the audience doesn’t need to wonder about where Anjelica Huston’s Eastern European crime organisation come from or exactly how a group of Bedouin can be the highest authority in assassin world because Reeves does an amazing job of interacting with them in an entirely honest manner. Though the scope of the film might be fantastical there’s no winking at the audience going on, which works fantastically with notable exception. The side plot that’s present in the first half of the film before it merges into the main plot drains a good deal of the film’s momentum. Part of it is due to how slowly and seriously it’s paced when compared to the rest of the film, and part of it comes down to the flat and unconvincing performance from Asia Kate Dillon, and either way it results in a lot of sour notes.
There’s so much else on the character front that makes up for it though; another set of fantastic character works from Lance Reddick, Ian McShane, and Laurence Fishbourne perfectly complement the stoic Reeves, while Halle Berry impressively keeps up with his physical intensity. Mark Dacascos is just a lot of fun to watch and he’s clearly enjoying every minute of his screen-time. Even the smaller roles from Anjelica Huston and Jerome Flynn are memorable, with the actors donning heavy accents and fitting in nicely with their opulent surroundings. All in all, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum has enough of the element that define the series with just as much of it’s own mannerisms to make it identifiably unique whilst maintaining the base level of tangibleness that sets these films apart. Unless something truly inspire comes along, this will definitely be the best action film of the year.