The Final Countdown, Mr. Wick - John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
In what has to be the most exciting action-film franchise I’ve watched since the Bourne films (well, since the Bourne films were good), John Wick takes what made movies like the Bourne Identity so engaging while carving out a path all its own. For clarity, I have to mention that I recently watched the first two entries for the first time. I’ve been meaning to watch John Wick 1 & 2 for a hot minute now, but just never got around to it… but hoo boy was I surprised! I even started to live tweet most of my viewing of the second one. This was all in preparation for watching John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum, the third installment and a direct continuation from John Wick: Chapter 2… so the statute of limitations on spoilers is way up on that one, so basically John was branded “excommunicado” by Winston after John enacted bloody revenge on Santino while seated in the lounge of The Continental. Conducting business on Continental property is a cardinal sin is this world, punishable by a swift death… but in John’s case a $14 Million bounty with every hired gun on the planet notified of the contract, it’s a sentence as good as death.
It’s fitting that I watched these films in quick succession since the timeline of these events has us spanning about a week since his dog’s death in the first film (from 2014) to Parabellum. Further fleshed out from Chapter 2, the world building was my favorite part of the John Wick franchise. One could argue that their world of crime bosses and assassins is a “character” all its own. I’m so fascinated by this world they play in, a world where these elite assassins have their own special currency, where someone trying to kill you would just as likely buy you a drink at the bar in the Continental. I likened it to the kind of world building one would find in a complex roleplaying game. It’s easy to miss in all that action, but if you take a second to really take in this world, it ends up being one of the best aspects of the film.
Of course it wouldn’t be Joh Wick if I didn’t talk about the action sequences. I thought the last movie was impressive but they ramped it up exponentially here, Chapter 3’s action sequences were like a work of art. One scene that sticks out is when John reconnects with his old friend Sofia (played by Halle Berry) in Casablanca. Sofia is flanked by two vicious attack dogs she wields as living weapons. So many stylish moments in this entire sequence, and while John had his high points as well, Sofia clearly stole the show.
Of course with the assassin universe coming down on him, John is constantly being attacked. It felt like he was stuck in one fo those old-school 2D beat-em-up arcade games, John could barely walk three feet without some random assassin with their sights set on the bounty ready to try their luck. It’s hard to pick just one sequence that stood out, the entire movie stood out. It was like a bombastic display of why we love action flicks woven perfectly with an engaging narrative set in a world that practically breaths.
Set on a grander scale than the last two films, Parabellum hits the pavement at break-neck speeds, rarely slowing down. While thematically this can be sloppy in the wrong hands, Chad Stahelski’s vision is pitch perfect. Balanced perfectly between fight scenes that had me clutching my gut and making all manner of “ouch” faces to scenes that drive the narrative. I was never bored, while at the same time I never felt like I had to turn my brain off.
Keanu Reeves is absolutely stellar once again, I swear this man can do no wrong. From his physical acting to scenes where he had to drive the story forward, Keanu drives this film franchise but isn’t afraid to let others take the wheel. Even antagonists like Zero (Mark Dacascos) and the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) shine as brightly as returning characters like Winston and Charon.
I used to look at action flicks as mindless popcorn fluff. The kind of movies that don’t get high marks from critics but in the moment are fun flicks. Movies like the first Fast and the Furious film, Resident Evil, and The Transporter come to mind. These movies, from a critical stance, are not good movies. They suffer from poor pacing, wooden acting, shitty villains… but overall are fun when you turn your brain off. John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum is not that kind of movie, sure you can turn your brain off and kit can still manage to be an entertaining action flick, but there is so much more to John Wick movies that transcend the action scenes. One could say this is the thinking person’s action flick. I personally loved it and May 21st, 2021 can’t get here sooner.
The boogeyman cometh