John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) Review

By now, you should know what to expect from a John Wick movie. Basically, here is the essential checklist: Expertly-choreographed action set pieces, brutal kills, a high body count, colourful antagonists with different sets of skills and of course, Keanu Reeves’ effortlessly cool and stoic persona as the titular character himself.

Not surprisingly, the same formula that made the first two movies such a fan favourite continues to prevail in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, which is seemingly set to be an epic conclusion of the trilogy. I mean, why not? The setup basically sees the injured John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is now on the run after being declared as “excommunicado” after breaking the rule for killing Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) at the end of John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) on the organisation grounds of Continental Hotel. The consequences: a global US$14 million open contract on his life is initiated and soon, he becomes the target of every top assassin from all over the world.

But back in December 2018, Entertainment Weekly has reported that director Chad Stahelski was interested to make a fourth John Wick movie. Even Keanu Reeves himself has previously hinted in last month’s GQ interview that he will continue “as far as the audience wants to go“.

Although the John Wick franchise has its own world-building potential that expands its interconnected storyline by introducing more assassins and the likes of High Table, a council of the top-level assassin organisation which consists of various members including The Director (Anjelica Huston) and The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), just how far the franchise could really go? That is the question which I’ve been asking myself after watching the third John Wick movie. Not especially the way Chad Stahelski alongside screenwriters Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins and Marc Abrams chose to stick to the same storytelling beat that doesn’t really expand much this time around. In fact, there’s a nagging feeling that the third John Wick movie feels like it’s going around the circle, even with all the introduction of new characters and more interconnected storyline. This is especially true, given its open ending of the movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the third John Wick movie. It’s just that the way the story is told feels repetitive and even beginning to wear out its welcome.

But other than that, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum succeeds as a pure visceral cinema. Clocking at 130 minutes, it is pacey enough to satisfy even for those who have short attention spans. The action? One word: electrifying. The first 30 minutes or so is particularly exhilarating, consisting of gun-fu and insanely-choreographed fight sequences involving a book and lots of throwing knives. And it doesn’t stop there. After a few breathers to make way for the plot, Chad Stahelski never ceases to amaze me with the way he shoots the action sequences with the help of John Wick: Chapter 2′s Dan Laustsen. Some of the other highlights to look out for includes the elaborate gunfight that takes place in Casablanca and a three-way fight scene between John Wick and two Indonesian assassins played by Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman.

The movie also manages to insert a few good laughs and even had a field day indirectly executing some of the story moments reminiscent of a video game, notably on an amusing scene during the climactic third act. Let’s just say if you frequently play a video game, you’ll know which scene I’m referring to.

At the heart of the movie is, of course, Keanu Reeves reprising his iconic retired hitman role as John Wick for the third time. Despite hitting at the age of 54, he shows no sign of slowing down as he did most of his physically-demanding stunts. I really admire his dedication to his craft, which makes him such a memorable Hollywood action icon in the first place. Other recurring cast members are just as engaging, with Ian McShane’s Winston, Laurence Fishburne’s Bowery King and Lance Reddick’s Charon each deliver solid supports.

Moving on is the franchise newcomers, notably Halle Berry’s scene-stealing supporting performance as Sofia, who is basically a female version of John Wick and even has dogs by her side. It would be great if the studio (Lionsgate) considers to give her a much-deserved spinoff in the future. Asia Kate Dillon of TV’s Orange Is the New Black brings a coolly charismatic vibe to her Adjudicator role, while Anjelica Huston made quite an impression in her minor role as The Director. Finally, it’s nice to see Mark Dacascos (1993’s Only the Strong, 2001’s Brotherhood of the Wolf), who has appeared in TV series these days, making a major comeback in the big screen as one of the antagonists nicknamed Zero.

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