Who would have thought back in 2014, that John Wick would survive to fulfil not one, not two, but three exhilarating action epics? Who would have thought that 5 years later we’d all be glued to our seats watching a 54 year-old Keanu Reeves stab, shoot, and bash his way through a world of deadly assassins? Seems daft when you write it like that. Reeves is one of the most loved stars in Hollywood, and a damn fine martial artist to boot.
Picking up right where the second one left off, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum finds Baba Yaga on the run, with every assassin in New York poised to claim the $14 million bounty on his head. As McShane’s Winston puts it, with Wick severely injured, unarmed and hundreds of deadly killers stalking him, ‘the odds are about even’.
And these guys don’t let up. Chad Stahelski (stunt coordinator on The Matrix, Man of Tai Chi) knows exactly how to orchestrate a pristine action experience. There’s no shortage of heads to cave, necks to snap, and bullets to fire. We’ve already seen two films of gun-fu so Stahelski & co wisely focus on fisty-cuffs and knife play. A knife-throwing fight in a weapons museum, Halle Berry’s groin-savaging dogs in the big Casablanca set-piece, a merciless showdown with bullet proof baddies at The Continental. Even the big finale brawl does away with guns and brings in the incredible talents of Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog from The Raid) and Cecep Arif Rahman (The Raid 2) for a blade brawl that will have you on the edge of your seat.
We’re now at that phase where we know the world and its characters so some of the offerings play on expectation others on expansion. Wick is a great fighter, but what about the world he lives in? This bizarre assassin-filled dystopia where the public don’t give a fuck and the police never turn up. Parabellum tries to flesh out that comic book world just a little more, without giving into exposition or ruining the mystique.
The franchise HAS suffered from a lack of villain, though. Wick has no nemesis: happenstance just keeps dragging him back in. That’s the only reason these films have continued, story-wise. The action/reaction or choice/consequence balance of the films is always followed through, especially in Parabellum, where a mysterious Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) judges all those who helped Wick in the past two films. Every time someone dies, it could be the beginning of a whole new feud, and in that way the Wick films have become one of the most fantastical, but oddly realistic, “revenge” films. The spiral never ends.
However, Mark Dacascos remedies the villain problem; here playing a well-humoured Wick fan-boy/leader of a deadly blade squad. Dacascos is a breath of fresh air: he has no beef with Wick, no blood feud, but he does have a boyish excitement to meet and fight with “The Boogeyman”. It’s just a shame they don’t let him take centre stage until the last act.
John Wick 3: Parabellum is a video game with run time, a lovingly made action experiment, crafted with the bang-for-buck mentality that has kept Tom Cruise and the Mission Impossible films going. John Wick is, for all intents and purposes, a passion project for all involved. And you can tell. With the third one done, and set up instilled for a fourth, the franchise, like its eponymous anti-hero and global star, show no signs of slowing.
In a cinematic landscape dominated by superheroes its nice to kick back and watch some gorgeously choreographed mass murdering mayhem. Without the moral compass.
Dir. Chad Stahelski
Stars. Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Mark Dacascos, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Yayan Ruhian, Cecep Arif Rahman