John Wick has a singularly unique cinematic universe of its own. A universe where the underworld has a well-defined set of rules that cannot be broken. They have their own currency to transact services, language to discuss formal events or social affairs, places to buy new cars, suits, maps & guns, own methods to settle debts, and codes to live their lives by. For anyone seeking refuge from death threats, there is haven in the form of The Continental where no killing is allowed. Contrary to other examples of the genre, every action has consequences in this world where anyone n everyone could be an assassin in disguise and yet, innocents are never caught in crossfire, damsels are never in distress & cops never interfere with the mob business. Every single character living in this world is nothing but a player in a giant game of chess that’s being played on a global level.
The first film breathed a new life in the then-stale genre of Hollywood action that hadn’t produced a single memorable action flick in years. It had a simple premise executed in a slick, stylish & sophisticated fashion. All the fight choreography & hyper-violent gunplay was re-imagined from the ground up, taking inspiration from the right sources, and with stunt coordinators at director’s helm, the end-product was a feast for action aficionados that also brought Keanu Reeves back in the limelight and revitalised his career. Chapter 2 dived deeper into the mythology of Baba Yaga, further expanded the world he lives in, featured massive upgrades in several aspects, and went big, bold & bloody in ways only few sequels have ever dared to. It was an immaculately orchestrated opera of death that delivered on all fronts and for me, it remains one of the greatest action films ever made.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum begins exactly where the last film signed off. The legendary assassin is declared “excommunicado” after the unsanctioned killing of a crime lord on Continental grounds and is now a marked man with a bounty of $14 million on his head which goes live in less than an hour. Already on the run and making every second of his head-start count as a horde of hitmen wait for the contract to go live officially and await his every turn, Wick does all in his power to seek help from the ones who still owe him a favour for past services and fights his way out of the city by obliterating all who are after his head. Meanwhile, an adjudicator with the High Table arrives to meet with Winston & the Bowery King, reprimanding both for being an accomplice to Wick’s actions and gives them a week to step down from their respective positions of leadership of their factions.
Directed by Chad Stahelski, Chapter 3 isn’t bigger than Chapter 2 but it’s definitely more intense as the first act itself has got more money shots than what most action films have in their entirety. The first 30 minutes are an absolute marvel of carnage & brutality that packs some of the most propulsive & inventive action sequences, and finds Death’s very emissary in full annihilation mode as he employs books, knives, guns & horses to smash, stab, shoot & kick his way through a never-ending line of assassins. The only time we get to catch our breath is around the halfway mark when it takes a detour to the desert and it’s the only scene in the whole film that felt somewhat unnecessary & out of place to me despite its role in the events that unfold later. Stahelski’s direction is top-notch yet again although his latest does lack the smooth narrative flow of his previous directorial effort.
Where the first two films of the franchise were written by Derek Kolstad, the third film is more of a collaborative effort that does manage to fill up the runtime with some thrilling action segments that are executed to perfection by the director but the dialogue & drama are only serviceable. Also, unlike the previous entries, the ending doesn’t feel like the end but only a prelude to the next instalment in line. On a separate note, what’s with its title? Either keep it John Wick: Chapter 3 or just call it John Wick: Parabellum, not a merger of both. On the plus side however, almost every new character introduced in this chapter is able to leave their mark. Parabellum works mainly because of the magic it conjures in imagery than on paper, plus the cleverly designed & masterly operated action set pieces, practical stunts, gunplay & fight choreography instantly separates it from genre norms.
Shot at exotic locations and decorated with sumptuous sets, the latest John Wick film is a visual splendour that utilises the right props at the right places to give its surroundings a subtle but effective facelift. One of the defining highlights of this series is the way camera is employed during the moments of action, for there aren’t any slice n spliced, frantically edited, shaky cam or other masking techniques to be found here. What we get instead is fight scenes that play out in their entirety and are shot as clearly, cleverly & concisely as possible. Editing is precise for the most part if not all, making sure the fatigue never sets in from all the action and yet it does slightly during the final showdown. Pacing is swift, controlled & steady throughout. VFX is applied in shades and much of it isn’t noticeable, meaning the team did a great job. And Tyler Bates returns with Joel J. Richard to deliver another fantastic score.
Once again spearheading the ensemble is Keanu Reeves who returns as the eponymous boogeyman in another swashbuckling display of raw charisma, flamboyance & magnetic screen presence as he piles up more bodies than the kill count of Myers, Freddie, Jason & Leatherface combined. There is no other actor who’s more fitting for this role and for the third time in a row, Reeves gets to prove why. Also returning to the fold are Ian McShane & Lance Reddick in their respective roles of the New York City’s Continental’s manager & concierge, in addition to Laurence Fishburne making an appearance as the Bowery King. The new additions includes Halle Berry as Sophia; Wick’s close friend, Asia Kate Dillon as the Adjudicator, Anjelica Huston as the Director who grants Wick one last favour & Mark Dacascos as Zero; an assassin for hire, and they all chip in with excellent inputs. And also worthy of mention are the dogs in this film who steal every moment they are in.
On an overall scale, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a powerful, potent & polished blend of kinetic direction, meticulous production design, astounding camerawork, neat editing, first-rate action, splendid score & solid performances that delivers yet another high-octane, full-throttled & adrenaline-fuelled action extravaganza that lives up to the hype. A stylishly filmed, furiously paced & relentlessly savage instalment that features some of the most stupefying action set pieces & extraordinary stunt choreography ever committed on film, Parabellum is a vicious, violent & vengeful dance of death that takes the action elements of its predecessors and kicks them up a notch to further solidify the saga of the man, the myth & the legend, and is without a shadow of a doubt is one of the finest offerings of the genre. What Chad Stahelski & Keanu Reeves have managed to pull off together for the third time in a row is a rare cinematic feat that establishes the two as a livewire duo and cements their franchise as the new benchmark of action filmmaking. In a sentence, John Wick 3 left my jaw-dropped, breath-taken & mind-blown. Very highly recommended.