John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Directed by Chad Stahelski

I love a good action film, and have been a fan of this franchise since the beginning. John Wick (2014) was a wonderful first entry into the dark underworld of assassins, crime and shady deals. It also cemented once and for all that Keanu Reeves is a great action hero, with his tremendous talent for pulling off some beautifully choreographed set pieces. John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) capitalised on that, expanding on the world Wick exists in and taking us deeper into the story of a man grieving for his wife and, in the end, for a life he cannot go back to.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) begins within minutes of the conclusion of Chapter 2. Wick is on the run, with less than an hour before a $14M contract comes into force. It is open season on John Wick and every assassin in the world wants a shot (literally) at the prize. I wondered how this film could possibly better the first two and I have to say my expectations were most definitely met in every way.

In my opinion, there’s a lot of things to consider as to why this film is so very satisfying. Firstly, the story and the world it exists in has expanded slowly over three films, each bringing a little more to the audience. There is never a major exposition dump, so prevalent in too many lesser films when the action slows, and even between set pieces there’s tension that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats. This is deftly spliced with some wry humour that really worked for me.

The framing and shooting of action is superb and solid through all three films. This is highlighted by long takes of set pieces, often cutting to different cameras but never resorting to hand held shaky-cam. I noticed the shooting angles for hand-to-hand fighting in Chapter 3 were often from waist height or just below, making the actors look bigger and giving the action a weight that many films neglect. The stunts themselves are beautifully choreographed and executed. From the start of this franchise, I’ve felt the series owes a lot to films like Gareth Evan’s The Raid: Redemption (2011) but especially here in Chapter 3.

And this brings me to Reeves. Having a leading man who is so dedicated to doing as much of his own stunt work as he possibly can must be a huge attraction for stunt coordinator/choreographer Jonathan Eusebio and director Chad Stahelski (who worked as a stunt coordinator and Reeves’ double on The Matrix films). This means they can do those wonderful long scenes, jam-packed with action and pull in to see faces and expressions. The rest of the cast are excellent, particularly Halle Berry and her beautiful dogs, Asia Kate Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Anjelica Huston and Ian McShane. Mark Dacascos is excellent as the assassin Zero and it was great to see Jerome Flynn on the big screen.

Tonally, this is the darkest of the series so far – John Wick: Chapter 4 has been announced for 2021 – despite the beautiful desert scenes shot in Morocco. As we learn more about Wick’s backstory and the world he inhabits, the darker everything becomes – including the characters. This is punctuated beautifully by another great soundtrack from Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard, who have scored the two previous films as well.

All in all, this is an incredibly satisfying thrill ride. If you like good quality action films go and see it on the biggest screen possible, though this is definitely on my DVD/BluRay wish list later in the year for home viewing.

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