John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Posted: May 26, 2019 in Film reviews
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Directed by: Chad Stahelski. Starring Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston and Ian McShane.

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Former assassin John Wick has been declared excommunicado by the shadowy criminal organisation known as the High Table. On the run he has one hour before every hitman in the city, if not the world, is after the $14 million dollar bounty on his head, and this time his friends Winston (McShane) and Charon (Reddick) can’t help him, and nor can the Bowery King (Fishburne). With only his wits and his skills to rely on John travels from New York to Casablanca, and seeks grudging assistance from the mysterious Director (Huston) and Sofia (Berry) another former assassin who’s now running her own Continental hotel in Morocco. Meanwhile the Adjudicator (Dillon) exacts justice from those who’ve foolishly aided John in his actions.

Can John stay alive long enough to reach the one man who might be able to call the High Table off, and if he does, will he be willing the pay the price of forgiveness?

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I’ve probably said this before, but when word of the original John Wick leaked people weren’t overly excited, so the notion that we’re now into the third instalment of a franchise that seems as unstoppable as Wick himself, with likely a fourth on the way, is amusing. But then John Wick was so good there had to be a sequel, and when the world that was created was expanded in the second film, a film that ended on a cliff-hanger, a third instalment was always on the cards.

And they say films named after their characters can’t be successful.

Parabellum is an exquisitely shot, balletically choreographed action film filled with interesting characters, let down only by a slight hint of repetitiveness, because there are only so many fights you can see before they all start to blend into one another, and though the makers of the film seem endlessly inventive when it comes to devising new ways for Wick to kill people (and the stable and library fights are a delight) in the end there are too many interchangeable skirmishes with guys in back alleys here.

That said the penultimate fight (between two assailants) in the Continental hotel is so good it’s practically worth the price of admission on its own, although it does kinda dilute the final mano-a-mano.

One of the things that’s always lifted these films above the average action fare is the wonderful world of the High Table and the Continental existing parallel with our own, like a kind of exceedingly violent Harry Potter universe, with payment in gold coins, and markers exchanged for favours, and an intriguing array of people (though sometimes you have to wonder if maybe everyone’s on the High Table pay-packet). Having had the cast expanded in the last film, here we get Huston vamping it up to eleven as a Roma gang boss/artistic director at a very extreme ballet/wrestling school, and Berry as a female Wick, complete with a canine fixation and a natty talent for killing an exceptional number of people as easily as you or I might prune some roses.

In particular Berry shines here. I’ve not always been her greatest fan, and I don’t think she was a great Bond Girl, but Sofia’s so awesome that I wouldn’t be averse to a spin off.

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It’s nice to see Reddick get more to do than just stand behind a desk here, and McShane is always a joy to watch. We don’t get much of Fishburne but maybe that’ll change in 4. Dacascos’ fanboy admiration of Wick elevates what could have been a stock bad guy role, and Dillon is wonderfully aloof as the adjudicator.

Plot wise the film isn’t very inventive, with the story existing on rails; John goes to Point A so he can then go to Point B and then back to Point A, but I guess plot was never the selling point of the franchise so much as watching Keanu despatch a whole lot of bad guys. There is the addition of a lot of humour this time, even if you do feel slightly guilty for laughing as various people are horribly maimed/killed!

The choreography and cinematography are where the film really shines, although again the neon lit finale does feel a tad repetitive of the second film.

This film is still a step above the standard action fare. It’s Funny, action packed and gorgeous to look it, but I really hope they try and do something a little different in 4 rather than sticking to the formula of 2 and 3, because there is a law of diminishing returns here. More please, but also, maybe, less?

On a final note, given one of the baddies in the original film was Theon from Game of Thrones, it was amusing to see another GoT alumni show up! Always nice to see a former stalwart of British TV doing well for himself, and this is a film featuring two of them!

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