John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Review

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is directed once again by Chad Stahelski and stars Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Jason Mantzoukas, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Anjelica Huston, Lance Reddick, and Ian McShane.

Following the chaotic events of the first two films, Parabellum picks up immediately where Chapter 2 left off, with John on the run from the international assassins’ guild he once served after killing a member of the High Table. With a $14 million bounty on his head, and every assassin around the world watching his every move, John is forced to go on the run–and on the hunt–in the fight of his life.

Anyone familiar with even a tiny facet of my life knows of my infinite love for action movies. They’re far and beyond one of my favorite genres, which is why I’ve greatly enjoyed what has more or less been an action movie renaissance over the past decade or so. One of the notable standouts among this crowd (and one of my personal favorites) has been the John Wick franchise, known for its sleek and stylistic direction, in-depth and elaborate worldbuilding, and EXTREMELY hard-hitting and thrilling action sequences.

And as the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broken, just do way more of it in the third movie to make for what is now my favorite film I’ve seen all year.”

It’s an absolute pleasure to report that the third go-around in the John Wick saga doesn’t disappoint, and continues to elevate this franchise to new and exciting heights. Even without any investment in the previous films (which are, in fact, mandatory reading for this go-around), you’ll be hooked from the word go, and will be stapled into your seat with each passing minute of the film’s 130-minute runtime.

As those familiar with this franchise might come to expect, the cast is great, each bringing their own uniqueness to the larger puzzle of this film’s world, helping to further establish the international league of assassins and the High Table they serve under. Some standouts include Berry and McShane, both bringing a cool yet intense badassery to every second they were on screen. Berry, in particular, is awesome, and for the short tenure she’s in this film, easily stands out as one of the coolest characters this franchise has produced. She and Reeves share an action setpiece right around the film’s midpoint that is one of my favorite I’ve ever seen in an action flick. That being said, I honestly would’ve liked to see more of her and learn more about her character’s history, but I undoubtedly had a smile on my face every time she was onscreen.

Returning players such as McShane, Reddick, and Fishburne are all fantastic yet again, even if they’re given varying amounts of screentime to suit the film’s narrative focus. Reddick, in particular, is a franchise-best this time around, and has a moment right before the turn of the finale that nearly turned my theater into bedlam.

In his third outing as the beloved hitman, Reeves steps up to the plate yet again and absolutely kills it this time around. He always manages to bring such a chilled stoicism and hardened rigor to every second he’s onscreen, and is every bit the Baba Yaga we’ve come to know. I mean, he’s 54. And he’s still kicking three million kinds of ass in these flicks. I should give the movie an A just for that. There’s literally zero denying that Keanu is a HUGE part of what makes this franchise so special.

Okay, have I talked about plot and character for long enough? Let’s get to what you’re really here for: The action.

Because OH MY GOD, THE ACTION.

In a franchise known for innovative and breathtaking action, you’d think it’d be difficult to constantly improve and raise the bar from one film to the next. Yet somehow, Stahelski, Leitch, and the rest of the stunt team bring the action in this film to a height I hadn’t even dreamed of, constantly blowing me away with well-shot, brutal, and well-made action. It’s no hyperbole whatsoever to say that this film is one of the most impressive action films I’ve ever seen, as each sequence continually managed to wow me more and more as the film progressed. I cannot praise the action and stuntwork in this film enough. Each gunshot, punch thrown, chase scene, and knife swipe is felt with a grueling intensity, and never failed to amaze ever occupant of my theater. HIGHEST marks for this film’s action.

My brother and I, being huge fans of the series, attempted to keep a kill count for the entirety of this film, similarly to the previous two. I’d like to think we’ve been able to hold our own, and keep decent track yet still enjoy the insanity unfolding before us. This time around, we both quite literally lost count and gave up less than ten minutes into the film. A lot of bad guys die in this movie, and that’s really all you need to know.

As far as what I didn’t like, there’s thankfully not a whole lot for me to offer. My biggest problem with Parabellum has to do with the film’s villain, a villain that is more or less manifested in Dacascos and Dillon’s characters. While by no means terrible or even bad, the two definitely felt out of place at times, due to the occasional flat delivery from Dillion or a bit of extra hamminess from Dacascos.

The film, while very narratively sound, also asks you to take quite a leap of faith toward the end. The ending, upon a first viewing of the film, is rather jarring, and will most likely polarize audiences depending on the number of times you’ve seen the film, as well as your overall investment in this franchise as a whole. Basically, a few different moving parts are gonna determine how much you like this film’s ending, if at all. You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about once you’ve seen the film.

Very happy to report that’s about the extent of the damage.

This movie is quite literally everything I wanted it to be and so much more. It is a tenacious, exuberant, and groundbreaking action romp that blazes from credits-to-credits, yet never once compromising the franchise’s trademark direction, narrative threading, or moments of character development. Stahelski and co. know exactly why you’re here, and they respect you as such. If you loved the first two, you’re going to have an absolute blast, as Parabellum yet again defies the odds, solidifying the John Wick franchise as one of the most solid in a long, long time. I’m very happy to give John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum an A.

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