“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” (2019)
Running Time: 131 minutes
Written by: Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, and Marc Abrams
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Featuring: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston and Ian McShane
The Director: “All of this for what, because of a puppy?”
John Wick: “It wasn’t just a puppy.”
This week see the release of “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” (2019) in what may be the final instalment of this franchise or possibly just the first story at an end. The first “John Wick” (2014) was a surprise but modest hit at the box office, the second instalment was a larger hit with the character as well as the movies having a string following for a variety of reasons, those being the incredible stunts, fight sequences, great character actors, a follow through on the story and finally the most important element that of its star Keanu Reeves who has bought into the idea of these movies and the genre, he is truly something special to see I each of these movies. Both first movies had just enough of a following so that this ramped up sequel was produced and so far has been the critical and box office hit that will probably lead to, hopefully some more movies but if not then it has been a great ride, all thriller no filler.
The first film also saw the return of Keanu Reeves to a high-profile action film the seemed to be what audiences were waiting for, and he was excellent as the single minded hit man seeking revenge for the death of his puppy, a gift from his now deceased wife. With Keanu now embracing his inner-Wick as well as seemingly waiting to make a sequel that ups the stakes without alienating the fans of the first and second film we see what is possible when you have a great script, a director who is not only willing to trust that script but also want to put his leading man front and centre, and finally an actor who has embraced the ethos of the genre, as well as handing his extreme talents to a director that can handle the kind of film that is to be produced. This film is a step up in every way from both previous movies, the budget has increased, new as well as experienced actors have been cast, the sets, cars and guns have all been upped and finally the mythology has expanded to such an extent that it is its own Universe – with a prequel television series rumoured to be in the works.
“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” is now a marked man on the run in Manhattan. He is declared “excommunicado” by The High Table which places a $14 million contract bounty on his head as a result of Wick’s unauthorized killing of High Table member Santino D’Antonio.This story has now become a sort of road movie where Wick must cash in chips he has kept secret as well as travelling the globe with the help of a mysterious friend, played so incredibly well by Halle Berry.
To say that this film ups the ante in terms of action, violence, story and world building is an understatement, it is refreshing to find a sequel that not only increases the action and violence but also offers more of a peek into this hyper stylized universe of assassin’s that seem to populate this world.
Screenwriter Derek Kolstad and director Chad Stahelski return from the first two movies to really get their teeth into the story along with star Keanu Reeves who seems really invested in the character of John Wick, as well as the way in which he embraces a philosophy that defines the world he inhabits. I believe it only assists the new film that there is a continuation of talent that moves from film to film to keep the idea of a what a John Wick film is and can be as well as how the films keep getting produced.
The action in this new chapter has been upped as has the body count, there has also been more humour and over the top scenarios introduced just to make sure we all know that this movie is not only fictional but at times absurd in the way it treats what Wick is able to do and get away with. Both this film and the previous one have to be the greatest pure action films of the past ten years at least. They both do what primal action films at their best do, they keep moving forward and never let up, even if you think they are.
The star here is of course Keanu Reeves, who has proven time and time again he is a force to be reckoned with, particularly where you may have a tendency to underrate him. His best performances have been in films where you may think he is not the right choice; even those films that may have been unsuccessful have more than likely aged very well. Reeves has a knack for choosing not just good but great projects to be a part of. The ‘Wick’ films are no different and with the possible announcement of a third it may mean that Reeves will have his own franchise that is not overblown with ego and special effects. One of the great things about these films is the use of CGI, there is very little which is refreshing for action films in this new millennium.
The supporting cast sees holdovers from the first film making very welcome reappearances, Ian McShane playing Winston the father figure/mentor to Wick who offers advice as well as offering exposition to the audience, Lance Reddick as Charon the hotel manager and all-round cool guy. As mentioned Halle Berry plays a huge part in this movie with her in an action role that kicks as much butt as Reeves himself. There are a few more surprise in terms of support and they all ring true with one of my personal favourites Saïd Taghmaoui as a key member of the High Table who offers a Wick a chance to get out from under his own contract.
In terms of action and story this is a movie that offers more of a look behind the curtain as well as moving the story forward in a way that sees John Wick having to make sacrifices in some pretty large ways. When it comes to the action which occurs in between the narrative part of the movie there is much to contend with. The best and most original sequences are a particularly incredible knife fight that wants you to think it is one shot, a quick motorbike versus horse battle, anything involving Mark Dacascos who almost steals the movie, a high speed sword/motorbike fight and of course the finale which by now is de rigueur for this series of movies. There are also questions around identity, honour as well as what do we do after loved ones die, this has become a very existential series, a new kind of action movie for a new age.
If you enjoyed the first two movies then this is a step up in the way this world operates, it offers more of a glimpse behind the curtain that John Wick operate in as well as broadening the existing characters and seamlessly introducing new ones. Of course the standout is Reeves but kudos need to be paid to the producers, writer and director for all the new characters and the casting of those characters. It feels to me like there are no miss-steps or issues at all.