John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
dir Chad Stahelski
prd Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee
scr Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, Marc Abrams
with Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Anjelica Huston, Said Taghmaoui, Jerome Flynn, Jason Mantzoukas, Randall Duk Kim
release US/UK 17.May.19
19/US Lionsgate 2h10

mcshane reddick huston
See also:
John Wick 2 (2017) John Wick 4 (2023)

reeves and berry
Once again, this picks up immediately, as our hero flees ever deeper into trouble. The first half is brilliantly staged, with fights that are both terrifying and blackly funny. In the final stretch, it begins to feel slightly stale, as if director Chad Stahelski was as bruised as his seemingly indestructible hero. But audiences will enjoy his audacious visual flourishes.
Now that he has broken the assassin's code, John (Reeves) is excommunicado, with a $14 million bounty on his head and thousands after him. So he turns to the Director (Huston) and cashes in a ticket, escaping to Casablanca, where he meets up with Sofia (Berry) and calls in a favour. Eventually he meets the Elder (Taghmaoui) and is given a redemptive assignment in New York that he can't refuse. This puts him on a collision course with his oldest friend Winston (McShane), manager of underworld hotel The Continental.
In Latin, "parabellum" denotes what's essential to prepare for war. Just getting out of Manhattan alive involves a series of staggeringly violent encounters, including a chase on horseback and a battle in a knife warehouse. Combat sequences are again choreographed with blinding skill, revelling in each smack and crunch. In the final act, guns are more prolific, which makes the fights rather dull by comparison. Thankfully, there are still astonishing hand-to-hand face-offs and a great scene in which John takes on a team of samurai killers on motorbikes.

Reeves plays John as a battered guy who still can't quite catch his breath. Even quieter scenes bristle with tension, which Reeves plays coolly. His scenes with Berry have a vivid intensity, leaving the audience to wonder what happened when they last met. McShane is superbly sardonic, and Dacascos is hilarious as a chatty villain. There's also Dillon as the heartless Adjudicator trying to sort out the mess, as if she could.

Stahelski and Kolstad have settled so easily into their superbly detailed underworld that they are having fun with it, throwing Reeves and Berry into the middle of the Sahara just for kicks. They also add extra oomph for Fishburne's Bowery King and Reddick's loyal concierge. John's war has moved beyond revenge or moral conviction: now he's just lashing out at anyone who crosses him. That isn't quite as interesting, so the film struggles to find a point of connection in the final reel. But it still leaves us wanting more.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 14.May.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall