Still on the rampage after avenging the death of his adorable puppy in ‘John Wick’ Keanu Reeves is back once again as the titular assassin for the third installment of the series. ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ kicks off exactly where the second film finished. With only one hour until a $14 million contract becomes active on him, Wick quickly becomes a worldwide target with few places left to turn. Director Chad Stahelski returns for a third time too but will this entry finally be the one to see the series run out of steam or will it result in one of action’s greatest modern trilogies?
The ending of ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ gives this follow up all the context it needs with this fairly basic narrative of Wick on the run making way for the trademark action that this series is so brilliantly renowned for. The story takes us to new locations, introduces fresh characters and gives enough reason for the action to work. Despite this there are a few questionable moments included and as a whole the film like its predecessor is slightly too long. Nonetheless this elongated running time does contribute to the epic feel that the film has, thanks also to the ferocious action. The sequences of combat here are the most violent, yet well executed the series has seen to date, and that’s really quite an achievement. They bring an exciting creativity to the table whilst also staying true to Wick’s trademark fighting style. This may well be the closest any western action film has come to matching the quality of combat seen in ‘The Raid’ films from Indonesia, which many would claim to be the strongest of this genre. It’s somewhat of a fitting touch then that two stars of those films, Yayan Ruhian & Cecep Arif Rahman, both feature here too and deliver one of the best fight sequences the film has to offer.
Action aside, it’s in the character work where ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ both excels and fails. Let’s start with the latter. Mark Dacascos portrays Zero, an assassin who’s recruited by the High Table to execute Wick. This is fine but the screenplay creates an odd rivalry between his character and Wick which unfortunately just doesn’t have enough development to prove effective. Instead it just feels unearned and at times irritating. This usually comes as a result of the horribly misjudged humour that’s included as a part of this rivalry. Despite this when solely focused on action Zero and Wick have an electric chemistry but when attempts are taken to expand on this they miss the mark almost every time. Thankfully the film’s attempts at humour are much more successful elsewhere. The increased screen time for both Ian McShane & Lance Reddick, who both reprise their roles from the previous film is much more welcomed. The humour used through these characters works much more effectively and their increased presence in general proves excellent for the film. However, it’s Halle Berry’s scene stealing turn, alongside her canine co-stars, as friend from Wick’s past, Sofia who many will appreicate the most. She’s one of the best characters this series has seen and her contribution to the action delivers one of the most thrilling and impressively executed sequences that will go down in the genre’s history as one of the greatest ever.
If judged solely on its action, ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ has to be given the highest possible praise. These sequences are hypnotising thanks to how meticulously executed they are. They often boast beautiful visuals, brutal violence or exciting creativity too, creating a true spectacle of cinematic action. It’s some of the surrounding factors that stop this entry from excelling fully, namely some misplaced humour and poor character work. Nonetheless, even with these flaws this installment presents a strong case for being the best the series has ever seen, whilst undoubtedly not without its own issues it manages to transcend these to provide an experience of adrenaline fueled, action ecstasy unparalleled to most of its genre competitors. As always Mr. Wick, it’s been a pleasure.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 8/10
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