"John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum"
Release Date: May 17, 2019
Running Time: 130 minutes
There’s no quit in John Wick. The same obviously applies to the franchise that requires its retired assassin to kill by any means necessary seemingly every 2.3 seconds. Exhausting in all the best possible ways, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellumis a 131-minute blood-soaked exercise in the art of survival. When not on the run, Keanu Reeves’ John Wick must fend off every opportunist out to claim the $14 million bounty on his head as a result of breaking The Continental’s rules. Thanks to franchise director Chad Stahelski and screenwriter Derek Kolstad, a disheveled Reeves barely gets any time to catch his breath between kills. Reeves looks so physically depleted after his first two extended fight scenes—just 15 minutes or so into Parabellum—that you half-expect him to crawl into the nearest bed and fall into a coma. And the audience would climb into bed with Reeves because, more so than the previous installments, Stahelski’s brutal and meticulously executed brawls, shootouts, and chases last forever and often prove to be a grueling vicarious experience individually and as a whole. But this is what makes each chapter in the John Wickfranchise stand out from other recent thrillers. If Wick is going to have to fight his way out of a situation, he’s going to have to fight his way out of a situation. One punch won’t do. Wick’s going up against the best of the best, and Stahelski demands Wick to earn each victory the hard way. Stahelski wants Wick bloodied and bruised. So Wick can sleep when he’s dead. Parabellum picks up immediately after Chapter 2. There is an open contract on Wick as a result of Wick killing a mob boss at The Continental, a hotel which prides itself on being neutral territory for criminals. In keeping with this franchise, Parabellum is driven by the consequence of breaking rules, written or unwritten. Kill a man’s dog, steal his car, you pay the price. Violate The Continental’s rules, you pay the price. Rules must be followed. Wick knew the consequences of killing a man on Continental property. So Wick is responsible for what he must endure in Parabellum. The Continental, managed by the effortlessly debonair Ian McShane’s Winston, has always been the primarily source of the franchise’s intriguing mythology. Wick’s decision to go against The Continental in Chapter 2allows Parabellum to expand upon the mythology by offering an glimpse of inner workings of The High Table and introducing us to many of those who toil for this council of nefarious crime lords, most notably the subtly menacing Asia Kate Dillon’s Adjudicator. Bearing this in mind, Parabellumis more than just Wick finding inventive ways to eradicate his adversaries. Stahelski and Kolstad—one of four credited screenwriters—force Wick to figure out how to avoid the consequences of the actions he took the end of Chapter 2. Every excruciating encounter brings Wick closer to his goal. But it requires Wick to call in life-saving favors, which ultimately cost him and those in debt to him. One such debtor coerced into helping Wick is Halle Berry’s Sofia, a retired assassin now charged with managing The Continental in Casablanca. Sofia capably reveals herself to be Wick’s equal in more ways than one, and it would not come as a surprise if Stahelski and Kolstad planted her in Parabellum to see whether she could carry her own spinoff. Remember, Parabellum is all about consequences, and Stahelski and Kolstad offer a hint as to how a standalone film would address how The High Table could punish Sofia for siding with Wick.While Berry clearly relishes the opportunity to unleashed her inner John Wick, Sofia is disappointingly presented by Stahelski and Kolstad as nothing more than a mirror image of Wick. Sofia is no different to Wick beyond the circumstances under which she operates. Heck, she’s a dog person. In contrast, Wick’s main foe is played with a disarming villainy by B-movie action star Mark Dacascos that both surprises and delights with its Bruce Campbell-channeled grooviness. Dacascos is positioned as a bad guy worthy of Wick’s time, and certainly deserving of his own spinoff. Stahelski also sets The Raidfranchises’ Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman on Wick, and the result is a spectacle tussle in the bowls of The Continental that recalls Chapter 2’s mirror-room fight—and it ends in unique but befitting fashion. Still, it is impossible to single out this set-piece from all others in from Parabellum. Stahelski once again offers a masterclass in action. To say Stahelski can’t topParabellumis wrong because, at least when it comes to the choreographed mayhem, he topped John Wickwith Chapter 2and he now tops Chapter 2with Parabellum. But there’s certainly a sense with Parabellumthat Stahelski has given everything he could give to this franchise plus some. The same applies to Reeves. And it really feels like Wick’s story has run its course with Parabellum. So whatever comes next is going to need to be more than just excuse to put a gun in Wick’s hand. Or a knife. Or a pencil. Or a book. Or whatever Wick needs to do what he does best.
Aired: May 16, 2019