JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM [2019]


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Unsurprisingly, Chapter 3 immediately follows the events that ended the previous film. Wick is limping and bleeding, constantly checking his watch, as is every assassin in the city – all receiving information that there is a 14 million dollar reward on his head. The fact that any person could be an assassin is a highly unstable situation for Wick, who is looking over his shoulder constantly, keeping the audience guessing.

The action does not take long to kick into gear, as a very big assassin (NBA player Boban Marjanovic, who is a solid 7’3″) attacks Wick despite the fact that they were formally friends. 14 million is a large stack of cash. As they are in a library, Wick puts a thick hard-cover book to good use as he fights the much bigger opponent. Much like its predecessors, there is no shying away from brutal action here while avoiding anything excessively gory. 

Injured, but of course still able to fight, Wick seeks the help of old friends, but they all tell him that they could be killed by the high table (those who pull the strings in this intriguing world of assassins) just for talking to Wick, let alone helping him.

Now the hunted rather than the hunter, Wick’s desperation leads him abroad to again try and have old friends help. He is unsuccessful, until he meets an old friend in Sofia (a feisty Halle Berry) who shines in her limited combat scenes, fighting alongside Wick as their tag-team face countless enemies.

Ex-stuntman Chad Stahelski returns to direct Chapter 3, again without his directing partner from the original film, David Leitch. Many argue that the first film was superior due to Leitch’s involvement, especially after he belted out the incredible Atomic Blonde. But Stahelski has established himself also, and Chapter 2 and 3 are proof of this.

He is obviously taking this franchise seriously, directing all three films. It is no surprise then that he commands brilliant and extended combat scenes, creatively constructing combat scenes involving motorbike chases and even Wick riding a horse through the streets of New York. Dogs trained to attack also add to the body count. The action is smooth, with many extended takes (showing us that the actors can actually perform these moves, unlike most action films with ADD-like cuts to hide the lack of skill). Overall, the camera-work is excellent, putting us in the situations Wick faces.

For a straight action film, the story isn’t terrible or clichéd. There are plot holes I am sure, but really, who cares? The idea of a world of assassins, and a hotel that provides a safe haven for them is surreal and original. The underground world of assassins posing as homeless people is another well executed idea as it instantly puts Wick and the audience on high alert, as these people are everywhere, posing as insane homeless people… until they suddenly jump into action. 

As well as Keanu Reeves, it is fantastic that those who survived the second chapter return. Lance Reddick, the assertive but friendly concierge, Ian McShane as Winston, manager of the Continental Hotel, and Lawrence Fishburne as the slightly unhinged homeless man whose looks vastly contrast with the power that he wields within his underground world.

Parabellum translates into ‘Prepare for war’ in Latin, an appropriate title given it is exactly what Wick needs to do, and there are other parts of the film that also require… well, preparation for war. The final moments take place in a neon lit room, with a giant screen projecting psychedelic images. It feels like this should be distracting, but the quality of the hand to hand combat is too good.

A final stamp of approval is the soundtrack by Tyler Bates. Interestingly, while he chose existing songs for Atomic Blonde, here, he and John J. Richard have created a thumping soundtrack that never intrudes, rather it amplifies each scene with its genre-splash of rock, electronica, ambient, and traditional soundtrack moments. 

Go see it. Now. Or Wick will come for you.


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