Film Review – John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
We live in an entertainment climate full of polarity; for the most part, massive blockbusters with budgets over $100 million and tiny indies or genre films under $10 million are the most profitable — not to mention the safest — endeavors in Hollywood. The movies between those two extremes have had the bottom fall out from underneath them, much to the chagrin of yours truly, who is a bit nostalgic for past decades when expansive adult films had every opportunity to thrive. Luckily, we now have John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, a film that seems to go against every rule in the book of how to make it big as a Hollywood executive in 2019; and it might be my favorite film in this ever-expanding, yet still modest by comparison, action franchise.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Chad Stahelski
Written By: Derek Kolstad, Chris Collins, Marc Abrams, and Shay Hatten
After being declared “excommunicado” following his killing of Santino D’Antonio on Continental grounds, John Wick (Reeves) is on the run once again as just about everyone in the assassin world is after him. Left with limited options, Wick must call on a few people from his past to help him in his time of need.
Meanwhile, the Adjudicator (Dillon) makes the rounds to those that helped Wick in the past, tying up loose ends and calling on many highly skilled hitmen led by Zero (Dacascos) to get rid of Wick once and for all.
Oh, and there’s a LOT of badass action in the middle of all of this.
Lionsgate Needs John Wick Now More Than Ever
In case you haven’t noticed, Lionsgate has been struggling in recent years as they look to fill the financial void left by Twilight and The Hunger Games. Lionsgate was at its peak when both franchises were running concurrently to each other, and they’ve been chasing that financial high ever since with countless failed attempts to launch global franchises. We even saw Lionsgate struggle last month with their reimagining of Hellboy, which was a resounding flop both critically and financially.
But amid all the IP carnage emerged the most unlikely of franchises in John Wick. What started as a passion project from long-time stuntmen Chad Stahelski and David Leitch has turned into something a lot more. We’ve seen the budget increase from $20 million for John Wick to $40 million for Chapter 2, and then from $40 million to $55 million for Chapter 3. The box office receipts have matched these increases as well, as Chapter 3 is primed to easily surpass its predecessor’s gross.
We’ll see how long Keanu’s body can take the punishment that comes with such work, but the fact remains: Lionsgate is going to milk this property dry. And honestly, I’m all here for it! I need more of Keanu shooting baddies from atop a horse in my life.
Even More Insanity!
Stahelski has mentioned that he convened with the main cast and stuntmen for Parabellum approximately 5-6 months before they started rolling so as to lock down and plan the intricate action set pieces throughout the film. Considering that the standard rehearsal time for action films is closer to 5-6 weeks, John Wick 3 has a serious advantage in comparison to the competition, which is why this particular film has some of the best action that I have ever seen from Western cinema.
Parabellum has Keanu Reeves riding on a horse, motorcycle fights with samurai swords, and attack dogs biting multiple bad guys in the crotch. What more could you possibly need out of a movie?!?!
Not only does Stahelski keep the camera back, allowing the action to be crystal clear at every moment, he, along with some of the most highly-trained stuntmen in Hollywood, continues to find ways to create inventive fights; each fight feels different from the last. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is the perfect melding of Western and Eastern action, combining what has been coined “gun fu” with expert samurai swordplay and martial arts. But what I’ve always loved the most about this franchise is the characters’ spatial awareness within the scene, using everything at their disposal — whether it be taking knives off the wall to use in combat or using the terrain against the opponent — to stay alive. It’s problem solving at its bloody and kinetic height.
Parabellum Adds to the Lore of John Wick
Chapter 3 essentially picks up right after the events of Chapter 2, which continues in line with the gap between 1 and 2 which was only a few days in movie time. I love this choice from a world-building perspective, as the new elements added to each film feel as if they are popping up as they become necessary within the world of the film rather than acting as a cheap screenwriting trick to artificially expand the universe. So when Wick has to call upon Anjelica Huston or Halle Berry’s character for help, their relationships that call back on years together and work incredibly well.
Asia Kate Dillon’s the Adjudicator filters a lot of the expansion, cleaning up the mess that John Wick caused in previous films. In that sense, the John Wick franchise acts like an immersive video game, where each subsequent film is like the next, more difficult level. John Wick 3 is the greatest expansion to date, offering yet another global look at this world full of expert assassins.
A Wonderful Assemble Powers John Wick 3 to Unprecedented Heights
In case you hadn’t noticed, John Wick doesn’t speak a lot in these films — his gun skills do a lot of the talking for him. These movies are at their best when they populate the edges of the screen with exciting, over-the-top figures that chew the scenery. I was probably a tad too harsh when I first reviewed John Wick: Chapter 2 back in 2017 — I’ve grown to appreciate it even more for additions like Laurence Fishburne and Common, whom both added a ton of charisma to the chaos.
Though most of the time spent in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is showing unbelievable action, we have even more fun characters that make the most of the time they have. These actors come out of the bullpen throwing 100 mph, making their presence felt almost immediately. Halle Berry constantly snarls at the camera with her attack dogs in tow; Anjelica Huston shows off her grace and power as an almost tyrannical sculptor of young, wannabe killers; and Laurence Fishburne is still taking notes from This is Spinal Tap by dialing his performance way up.
However, my favorite addition is unquestionably Mark Dacascos as Zero. Not only does he lead a small army of assassins that quickly cut up the opposition like they’re fish ready for market, but he’s also a John Wick fanboy. He’s simultaneously impressed with Wick and trying to kill him, underscoring the level of respect that these assassins have for worthy adversaries.
These supporting characters diversify Parabellum. Thanks to them, it’s funnier, zanier, and crazier than just about every other film in the genre.
John Wick: Chapter 2 was John Wick on steroids, and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is Chapter 2 on HGH, Testosterone supplements, deer antler spray, and a hint of crack for an extra energy burst. Stahelski is such a magician as an action director and knows exactly how to use his talented cast, especially Keanu, who is once again a gift to all of us. I left John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum feeling as if I had seen some of the best hand-to-hand combat scenes ever put to screen. I winced and cackled at the same time at the bloody violence, sensing the pure adrenaline rush through my body with every kick to the face.
With an insane amount of stunts and absolutely mesmerizing choreography, Parabellum cements John Wick as one of the best Western action franchises.
(And shout out to Sixers folk hero Boban Marjanovic for having one of the best cameos of 2019.)
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum? Comment down below!
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