This review was originally published for Vents magazine. Link HERE
The word parabellum is a Latin phrase meaning, “if you want peace, prepare for war” and a war is what we got in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, the exhaustingly thrilling, gorgeously shot third installment of one of cinema’s greatest action franchises.
The last time we saw Mr. Wick (Keanu Reeves), he had just killed fellow assassin Santino D’Antonio on the grounds of The Continental Hotel, one of the unbreakable rules in this underworld of hitmen and assassins which makes John “excommunicado” from the Continental, losing all access and privileges to the Continental’s underworld resources. John was given a one hour head-start before Continental owner Winston (Ian McShane) sent out the order and a global bounty for John Wick’s head goes into effect.
The film picks up during the head-start, as a limping, bloodied Wick makes his way through a rainy New York City trying to get everything he needs to stop the onslaught that awaits him. What follows is a globe-trotting manhunt, as hundreds of assassins try to kill Wick, who has a $14 million bounty on his head. Wick uses all of his remaining resources, including some skeletons from his past, in order to help him, all wile defending himself from all the guns, knives, and fists that are coming at him by the dozen.
We all go into the John Wick films to see the expertly choreographed fight sequences and Parabellum has upped the ante on those once again. From the opening library scene, where Wick kills a gigantic assassin (played by Philadelphia 76ers center Boban Marjanovic) with a book to the final showdown at the Continental, every fight sequence is exciting, wildly violent, and loads of fun, all featuring a new, surprising way to kill someone. The best fight in the movie takes place in Casablanca, where John, in search of a way to get his excommunicado status revoked, takes down dozens of soldiers and henchmen with the help of Sofia (Halle Berry, in her best role in years) and her dogs. These sequences will leave you breathless and possibly cause some audience members to break out into applause.
The first John Wick gave us a taste of this assassin underbelly, a world never seen before on film. Chapter 2 took us deeper into this world, showing us more rules, more people, and giving us a bigger scope as to how big this world is and taking us even more in-depth into the rules, its political system, and the hierarchy. Parabellum goes even deeper, showing us more of the assassin underworld, giving us more information about The High Table (the group that runs this assassin world) and even dives in to John’s life a little bit, showing us some of the people from his past and giving us hints as to where he came from and how he got into the life and how he got out of the life. The film does a great job of giving us bits and pieces of John’s life and only giving us a little more insight into this assassin underworld, allowing us to wonder how wild and big this world really is and what John’s previous life was like. This is a franchise that could go on for years to come.
You will love the fights and you will love the continued world building, but one aspect that could go overlooked is the technical brilliance of this film. The cinematography, production design, and editing are all top notch. The cinematography is astounding. The utilization of colors like blue and yellow give the film a dynamic, awards-worthy look. Coupling that with the gorgeous sets and you have one of the best looking movies of 2019. The editing in this film is near masterful. In most action films with a lot of hand-to-hand combat, the editing is cut really fast, making it feel erratic and confusing (think the Bourne movies). But in Parabellum, they utilize longer cuts, letting the scenes play out so we can see the action unfold. This shows us the physicality, preciseness, and effort the actors put in to their performances as well as allow the viewer to see every punch, bullet, and fatality. This is a smart choice and really enhances the experience of watching the film.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is yet another stellar entry in the John Wick franchise. Though not my favorite film in the series (that honor belongs to Chapter 2), this is still a spectacular movie in every sense. The action is at its best, the world building gets bigger, and the cinematography and editing are some of the best we will see all year. I cannot wait to see where the John Wick series goes next.
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