Directed by Chad Stahelski Starring Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Halle Berry, Asia Kate Dillon, Mark Dacascos
The ballet of cordite and carnage that makes the John Wick series such an enjoyable action franchise sees another outing. The first film was a nigh-on perfect piece of the action genre, stripped down to the bare essentials like a racing car. The second bolted on additional lore to flesh out the strange otherworld of underground crime that runs parallel to our mundane existence, but somehow remains unseen. With the excommunicated John alone (save his dog) and hunted after the events of the previous film, will “Baba Yaga” be able to survive the vengeance of The High Table in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum?
With the loss of his dog having dragged John Wick (Keanu Reeves) back into the assassin’s life in the first film, and the execution of a scion of the ruling families leading to Wick being excommunicated in the second film, John starts this film on the run for his life with a bounty on his head. As John struggles to leave New York, The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) a representative of underworld’s governing body, arrives in the city to mete out retribution. However, her retribution applies not just to Wick, but all those that have aided him in his crusade. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum hits the ground running, providing some stunning violence in the action set pieces of the first twenty minutes or so. Unfortunately it’s a pace the film can’t maintain for its run, flagging rather harshly in the middle with an entire section that is either laying the groundwork for future installments, or could be effectively cut from the film with few issues (at this stage it’s hard to tell). Still, like the titular character, it is able to pick itself off the mat and deliver a protracted showdown in a stunning location (same as the previous film). Those pacing issues, and the rather open ended nature of the conclusion bring the film down a little. Yet the John Wick series has never really been about the plot. World building, sure, as its effectively created a rich detailed hidden underworld – sort of like Harry Potter, except with more 9mm pistols and kung fu. Still, considerations of plot have always been functional at best to these films, and more an excuse for the mayhem on the screen. That mayhem, however, is some of the best-choreographed fight and stunt work around today, and this iteration builds on the reputation of the first two films, and surpasses it to show us the most spectacular gun fu since John Woo first hit the screen (well, maybe The Raid). All of which suits Reeves fine, as the terse action hero with a perchance for understatement and a love for dogs. Here he’s backed up by returning series favourites Ian McShane and Lance Reddick, while pitted against The High Table forces of The Adjudicator played with cold precision by Asia Kate Dillon (Orange is the New Black), and her deadly right hand man (played with wondrous glee by The Chairman of Iron Chef America, Marc Dacascos). Dacascos especially brings something extraordinary here with both his martial arts background and sense of self-deprecating humour providing an appropriate foil for Wick.
Parabellum raises the bar in terms of action and stunts for the series, and is bound to bring satisfaction to fans of the genre. A few niggling issues aside, this is a solid continuation of the violent and highly stylised series that is John Wick. Although more of a placeholder than a conclusion, Parabellum is a worthy addition to the lore, that both builds on the groundwork set by the previous two iterations, and delivers blood-soaked operatic entertainment in its own right.