Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

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He’s Back, Bloodier and More Brutal Than Ever. Keanu Reeves is gonna Wick your ass — over and over again. Keanu Reeves’ master assassin returns for another round of gun fu, insane stunts, and magnificent mayhem.

 

You can wait around and hope for a bigger, badder burst of action fireworks than John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, but you’d be kidding yourself. Wick 3, starring Keanu Reeves in the role he was born to play, hits you so hard in the thrill zone. Instead of feeling exhausted when director Chad Stahelski calls a halt at 130 minutes, you’re panting for Chapter 4.

The John Wick action series doesn’t get bogged down in such silly trivialities as character development, plot, dialogue, morals or any of the usual rubrics most films follow. Instead, these fun flicks are just loosely connected, extremely violent fight scenes starring Neo from “The Matrix.”

Number three picks up right where the previous movie left off: Wick is still the hitman no one will let retire. Fate keeps pulling him back in. In his 2014 origin story, the retired killer-for-hire was infuriated because the bad guys stole his prized 1969 Mustang and then killed his puppy. In the 2017 sequel, the antihero had acquired a new pet and new enemies at the High Table, a society of the criminal elite. But Wick broke the rules. Not the dress code — even in a furious battle, Wick is always elegantly attired in a dark suit and tie. But he did the unforgivable by slaying a man at the Continental, a chic Manhattan hotel for the crème de la crème of assassins run by Winston (Ian McShane, dispensing martini-dry wit), who strictly enforces the rule that there will be no “business conducted” at the Continental. Ever.

At the beginning of this super-macho third chapter, “Parabellum,” master hitman Wick grabs a library hardcover and uses it like nunchucks to bludgeon a thug to death, leaving the victim covered in, um, bookmarks. Badass. He later winds up, quite conveniently, in a rare sword and gun warehouse where most of his opponents get blades rammed through their skulls. Awesome. Wick then rides a horse down a busy road in Queens and shoots a guy driving in the other lane. A New York road rage fantasy. At this point in director Chad Stahelski’s film, blood has been spilled but hardly a word has been uttered. All we know is that Wick has been made “excommunicado” by the High Table, a top-secret crime syndicate, for breaking the ordinance with a $14 million price on his head. Because Wick killed a man on protected grounds — New York’s Continental Hotel, ruled over by Ian McShane’s Winston — he’s now fair game for the world’s assassins. Every killer-for-hire, skilled and amateur, is out to take him down. There’s one on every corner.

It’s a head-scratcher that it took four writers to concoct the mostly dialogue-free exchanges. No matter. It’s the bristling beauty of the fight sequences that electrify the series, with cinematographer Dan Laustsen and editor Evan Schiff performing well beyond the call of duty. Cue a gun-fu battle at the New York Public Library that belongs in the time capsule for all-time great cinematic deathmatches. High praise to Reeves, who trained in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and to Stahelski, who worked as a stunt double for Reeves on The Matrix films and stages the stunts with a choreographic skill unseen since the glory days of John Woo.

What’s unexpected for a blood-and-guts movie, such as “Parabellum”, is the visual panache and artfulness with which it’s filmed. The alleyways, bunkers, and lairs are inordinately pleasant to the eye — beautiful, even. The scenery has a neon-colored, art exhibit look to it: particularly, the final battlefield, the all-glass battlefront, and that bonkers ballet stage.

The main action kicks in when Wick returns to New York and attempts to clear his name. The Adjudicator is having none of it, bringing on a sushi chef named Zero (Mark Dacascos, superb at winking insolence) to carve Wick to pieces with the help of two sous-chefs (Cecep Arif Rahman and Yayan Ruhian). Fists, knives, guns and anything handy are the weapons of choice as they pursue Wick from Grand Central Station (watch out, kids!) to the glass offices at the Continental. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Reeves and Stahelski pull out all the stops.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum has definitely stuck to its Latin roots - “Prepare for war”. For a full 130 minutes of badass action, the ending is a shameless cliffhanger making you want more and wait for the next chapter. But the wow factor in Parabellum? It is definitely off the charts!

 

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