REVIEW: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
It doesn’t feel like a minute since we saw Mr Wick running out of Central Park for his life. The grace period is over now. Excommunicado is in effect. Tick tock.
Chad Stahelski’s third chapter in the Wick series picks up thirty five minutes later. John is quickly beginning to realise just how unnervingly outnumbered he is. This isn’t just a few mafioso goons in a nightclub or thugs in catacombs. This is open season on Wick’s life.
John has a motivation to live but can he find safe passage or anyone to trust as the world grows smaller around him?
Chapter Three injects an enormous sense of grandiose scale immediately by taking us back into the heart of the administrative HQ of The High Table. Operators wiring in phone lines manually and declaring contracts on chalkboards feels more ominous than novelty as Margaret Daly’s chilling voice declares Wick’s life to be forfeit. Taking a break in an alley isn’t even an option as the Bowery King’s men lay in (specifically Jason Mantzoukas) wait of opportunity.
It becomes clear early on that this is more than just action. Stahelski and co. are presenting us with a full-blown martial arts western, complete with single coil guitar strums. From the bounty itself to a finale that takes a page out of Butch Cassidy’s book, Chapter Three is Wick firing off six shots no holds barred. So much so that even Wick’s code is becoming frail. It’s only taken a few days to send Wick’s life in a downward spiral with seemingly no way out.
Kolstad and Stahelski continue to expand the lore of the Wick universe in the same vein as Chapter Two: show don’t tell. The universe is further removed from any semblance of normality than ever, continuing the commitment of tone that Stahelski cemented in Chapter Two. I won’t be revealing specifics here as the lore in these films is a divine treat when a new piece is slotted into the puzzle. Chapter Three isn’t concerned with taking a break for small talk and when it does slow down to meet new characters, the ticking clock feels present and urgent.
As for new characters, there are plenty of fantastic additions once more.
Asia Kate Dillon arrives as The Adjudicator, an intermediate of sorts for The High Table. Dillon plays it with an exacting blunt articulation that makes them a presence to be fixed by every time Dillon enters the frame. The Adjudicator’s dialogue isn’t wasteful or overlong, this character speaks with only relevance as their time is not to be squandered. Zero (Mark Dacascos) is recruited as part of The High Table’s mission to clean up Wick’s mess.
He is raring and ready to get his chance to meet what seems to be his idol, in Mr Wick himself. Zero seems like a character that could have been played down the middle in a more serious manner, but this is the Wick universe after all. Dacascos is a sheer joy to witness when he eventually meets John.
His unfiltered enthusiasm and admiration make for another colourful aspect of this world. I’ve seen Chapter Three twice now and his energy is so infectious that I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear when he appears. Anjelica Huston’s appearance as The Director is inspired casting. With an aura of regality and firmness, Huston’s is perfect casting to open up a part of Wick’s backstory that hasn’t been explored yet. However, in my eyes, Halle Berry as Sofia takes the highlight for the new additions.
With two trained Belgian Malinois dogs by her side, I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that Sofia is every part as badass and superb as John Wick himself. While her appearance may be slightly less than what I expected, Berry dominates her time in this film. Her dedication to what the cast call “John Wick Training” is made extremely clear when the bullets start to fly quickly after Wick’s arrival in Casablanca. The synchronicity between Berry and her canine sidekicks left me fully slack jawed during their ferocious set piece.
Of course, it would be criminal not to talk about the man at the center of all this. Reeves himself, as well know by now, is John Wick. His embodiment and commitment to this character is indomitable. Carried over from the two previous entries is the sense of emotional tragedy within Wick’s psyche. His motivation to get out with his life is bittersweet and makes this character all the more accessible to invest in his journey.
Kolstad and Stahelski don’t make it any easier on Wick either. New choices present themselves in the last act that fully enforce the looming fear of death that Chapter Three plays with. Thematically this is ultimately about accepting or fearing the end. Whether it’s here or down the road, Wick has an end in sight.
Oh, the action eh? My fucking word. Chapter Three is worthy of any and all superlatives to describe the set pieces in this entry. Much like M:I Fallout last year, Chapter Three is another roaring shout as to why an Oscar category for Stunt Work/Teams needs to be created.
Stahelski, the 87/Eleven team, and the whole crew have done what might be unparalleled work for a long while. Chapter Three is TRULY the kitchen sink entry in this franchise. Creativity and awe-inspiring feats of imaginative sequencing unravel with eye watering and giggle inducing perfection. It is genuinely mind destroying to fathom how each sequence manages to up the craftsmanship and execution, one after another.
The first thirty minutes is nothing but a palate cleanser following Chapter Two if anything, as the rest of the runtime ascends to a place of transcendently genius action filmmaking. It feels almost spoiler territory in my mind just to detail the specifics of the set pieces as they need to be experienced first hand. Thinking about a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it visual callback to the first entry is enough of a rush just thinking about it. I will say that Stahelski, Reeves and Kolstad must have had a field day coming up with various nouns to then use as weaponry.
When all the bullets have flown and the glass has shattered, Chapter Three ends on what might be an infuriating blunt note for others and a glorious WTF moment for others. If Chapter Four is on the horizon, I’m sure we will find out soon enough. Parabellum indeed.
John Wick: Chapter Three continues the series with a triumphant entry that proves that this story, character and filmmaking isn’t getting old or tired anytime soon. Experience it as soon as possible.
“So far, you haven’t disappointed.”
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick
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