And really, that’s all there is to John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. The story is thin and the characters one-dimensional – but it’s a whole lot of fun.
Parabellum picks up almost immediately where John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) ended, with Wick (Keanu Reeves) on the run after being made ex-communicado from the international assassin’s guild and his safe-haven, the Continental Hotel. Wick’s banishment leads him on a path across countries in what is essentially a way to get back to doing what John Wick does best. Along the way, he’ll seek assistance from old friends that include Halle Berry’s Sofia; the two of them pairing up for an epic bone-crushing action set-piece. While this is taking place, the big wigs behind the assassin brotherhood, aka the ‘High Table’ will send an adjudicator to enforce the rules and dish out some violent retribution to those that aided Wick on his quest, all of which serves the plot as a catalyst for battle after battle of some truly inventive fight scenes.
The film really isn’t that hard to follow, though the filmmakers will remind you time and time again about the plot points, almost feeling like they’re questioning the audience’s intelligence. It’s small, irksome things like these that let down the narrative and the constant exposition is unnecessary in a film that doesn’t have much depth to begin with.
The new characters in Parabellum are a welcome addition, with Angelica Houston joining the cast as a director of a shady, Russian (I think) organisation with links to Wick’s past; Halle Berry as an old friend/colleague with links to Wick’s past (no idea of the specifics as they’re never mentioned), and 90’s blast-from-the-past martial arts action-film star Mark Dacascos as John Wick’s nemesis this time around. Houston brings her unmatched, decades-long experience to light in her role while Berry’s knack for sass and action-movie credibility make her the perfect choice for what is basically the female John Wick in this film. Dacascos’ role is basically that of comic-relief and he clearly has fun with it, though the filmmakers have done very well to balance out the humorous side of his character to the villainous side and it works well.
Despite its flaws, the film excels in the action department and it’s been taken up a notch from the first two films. There are some things in this film that some audiences may have never seen before in terms of fight choreography, making for some genuinely astonishing moments. This isn’t Fast and Furious style movie action though, it’s gritty, close quarters, every-hit-is-a-kill style and it’s splendid to watch. Some audiences may even feel uncomfortable at the sight of some of the film’s more brutal sequences, but it hasn’t been added to the film for the sake of being off-putting, rather, it fits in with the overall tone of the film’s violence.
The action is once again the big draw-card for this latest John Wick film. It won’t win any awards for storytelling, but it should be commended for its awesome style and incredibly engaging entertainment factor. As far as that’s concerned, Parabellum is a winner.
This film reunites former Matrix cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Tiger Hu Chen, and Randall Duk Kim (the keymaker). John Wick trilogy director Chad Stahelski also served as the Martial Arts stunt coordinator for the Matrix trilogy as well as Keanu Reeves’ stunt double.