The clock is ticking. After the blood-soaked events of John Wick: Chapter 2, the eponymous assassin played by Keanu Reeves has been excommunicated from the world of The Continental, the underworld society of assassins which John Wick was bound by a blood oath. With only an hour, John Wick must escape New York City before a bounty of 14 million dollars is placed on his head. That’s the setup for John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, the latest entry in the incredible action franchise from director Chad Stahelski. Over the course of two films, Stahelski has established John Wick as the premiere action series going and Chapter 3 proves that there’s just no slowing down this freight chain of action cinema. This is easily going to be the year’s best action film, and if anything comes along and surpasses it I shall kneel before the filmmakers and pledge my fealty. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum just goes to show that the best action franchise in cinema can continue to just get better and better.
Now excommunicado under the orders of Winston (Ian McShane), head of the Continental’s New York location, all of the world’s deadliest assassins are out to claim the valuable bounty on John Wick’s head. When asked by his loyal concierge Charon (Lance Reddick) about Wick’s chances of survival with an army of assassins out for the kill, Winston wryly comments, “I’d say the odds are about even.” The third chapter of the John Wick saga starts out with a bang as the wounded assassin must fight for his life and scheme for safe passage outside of a city teeming with killers out for his head. Immediately, Stahelski and John Wick mastermind Derek Kolstad (who shares scripting duties with Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, and Marc Abrams) set the stage perfectly, establishing the film’s plot, John Wick’s desperate stakes, and all of the incredible action you’ve come to expect from a John Wick film.
In the opening race against time, Reeve’s wounded and weary Wick must take on an army of relentless assassins, including one incredibly fun fight with NBA big man Boban Marjanovich. The punches and kicks fly in a frenzy of meticulously choreographed action, escalating to guns, edged weapons, and some rather ingenious moments of lethal improvisation. You really get the sense that Stahelski and company are open to any ideas when developing the action sequences, just throwing ideas to the wall and which ever ideas stick they’ll then throw at Wick. The result is breathtaking action cinema, the kind of stuff action junkies want to mainline.
All of this action has consequences, and that’s the dominant theme of John Wick: Chapter 3 and the film isn’t subtle about it. Consequences come to New York in the form of The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), a bureaucratic supervisor working on behalf of the High Table of the Continental. The Adjudicator’s mission is simple: Punish those who have broken the rules of the Continental, including those who’ve aided Wick on his most recent rampage. Winston has a week to abdicate his role as head of the New York Continental. The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) is lashed for his role in aiding John Wick’s killing spree at the end of Chapter 2. To carry out the judgments, The Adjudicator enlists Zero (Marc Dacascos), a cat-loving sushi chef, to kill John Wick and his collaborators.
As consequences have come to New York City, John Wick has eluded those in pursuit and found his way to Casablanca. It’s there that he requires the help of Sofia (Halle Berry) in order to save his life from the bounty placed on his head. I won’t say any more about the plot details but this segment escalates into another incredible action sequence with Reeves and Berry battling more and more anonymous bad guys. In their fighting they’re assisted by Sofia’s secret weapon – her loyal assassin dogs. Oh yeah, Buster, that’s right. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum gives the dogs their due. Wick’s canine compatriots are just as lethal as the army of assassins that our beaten down anti-hero must battle.
Like its predecessors, John Wick: Chapter 3 expands the mythology of the assassin underworld that is The Continental. But the film isn’t concerned with explaining every new wrinkle it has shown, opting instead to only show what’s relevant to the story. Each detail that expands this universe is like a sip of a fine, flavorful whiskey, not a throat-burning shot of generic hooch. The past is something that is very much a part of John Wick’s makeup, but the film doesn’t want to dwell on what’s not happening on the screen. That’s why Anjelica Huston’s brief appearance as The Director hints at more history than it explains as it moves the action forward. Parabellum pulls us deeper into the world of The Continental, illustrating clearly that the world is an inescapable vacuum. John Wick pulled off the impossible once and got out, but now that he’s back escape is impossible in this world of killers governed by rules bound by blood with deadly consequences whenever a rule is broken.
The world of The Continental wouldn’t be so appeal if wasn’t populated with such fascinating characters, and Chapter 3 introduces some great new antagonists for Reeves’ Wick. Asia Kate Dillon’s The Adjudicator is buttoned-down addition to this world, not exactly a killer herself but a figure whose presence creates an ominous sense of dread. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the film is the scene stealing turn by Marc Dacascos as Zero. Not only is this character a deadly, sword-wielding assassin, but he’s also John Wick’s biggest fan. Dacascos’ eyes widen, his serious demeanor is obscured by a gigantic smile when his character realizes that he’ll get to face off with John Wick. On top of some stunning fighting work, Dacascos is key to inject plenty of humor into the ultraviolent affair of this latest John Wick sequel. During the action-packed climax, Dacascos’ Zero watches like the fans in the theater as Reeves’ Wick battles with two assassins (played by Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman from The Raid and The Raid 2, which is just more catnip for action aficionados).
Watching John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a treat for action fans because it’s a film where you are seeing the best in the world perform incredible feats. You have the best action choreography, the best action performers, the best stunt drivers, and the best action director working today in Chad Stahelski. Sequels often suffer from a case of diminishing returns, expanding the world and making the action bigger but without the same weight that made audiences fall in love in the first place. That hasn’t happened with the John Wick films yet, and there’s no sign of fatigue present. There’s a lot of life left in this series. This isn’t the end for John Wick and the world of The Continental. I’m already planning on checking in again.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Another incredible entry in action’s best franchise, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is an action film made by a team of performers working at the top of their game, providing fans with eye-popping action as Keanu Reeves’ famed assassin takes on an army of colorful antagonists in director Chad Stahelski’s latest action-packed masterwork.