Si vis pacem, para bellum (John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum review)

While other action films focus on grandeur, CGI spectacle and superheroes, the John Wick stands alone. Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of grey Michael Bay flicks, the John Wick franchise is one that focuses on action in its purest form. The third instalment of the franchise promises that its supreme reign is far from over, delivering all the thrilling, over the top action that we have come to expect.

Following the events of the previous films, John Wick finds himself paying the consequences of his actions. With a $14 million contract on his head, he must run from a world of assassins while trying to reconcile what little hope he has left. The film does deliver slightly more story than that, but honestly, it mainly comes secondary to the constant onslaught of perfectly choreographed, blood-soaked violence.

It feels daft at this point to mention, but Keanu Reeves, like Tom Cruise, is in his mid-50’s. The two of them, it should be argued, are two of the hardest working men in Hollywood, constantly pushing themselves and their bodies for the audience’s enjoyment. Here, Reeves delivers perhaps his best ‘Wick’ performance yet as an assassin who is falling ever deeper into a pit of death and destruction after losing his wife and everything dear to him. His intensity during the fight scenes is incredible, yet he is brilliantly restrained during times of more story driven moments.

The rest of the cast includes a fantastic array of new and returning faces. Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and Laurence Fishburne all return, with Mark Dacascos, Halle Berry, Anjelica Huston and Asia Kate Dillon joining the cast. This lineup is superb and they all deliver very worthy performances. Asia is wonderfully ruthless in their role as the Adjudicator of the High Table, and Halle Berry, who broke three ribs while training for the role, is superbly cut-throat as Sofia, an assassin and friend of John’s.

Obviously, what people really go to John Wick for is the action and fight scenes, and they will not be disappointed. Parabellum delivers the most extreme, violent, bloody and over the top action scenes to date. A key standout was a knife fight that verged on the comedic, with Buster Keaton-level slapstick timing and an eye-popping finale. Other scenes include motorbike chases, countless fist fights and gun fights, and one particularly insane moment involving a horse. In the best possible way, the film is exhausting to watch, and though there are breaks when slower story moments are allowed to unfold, the film is almost 2 hours of non-stop action, much like its predecessors.

Returning cinematographer Dan Laustsen, who was recently lauded for his cinematography in The Shape of Water, again brings a gorgeous neon glow that he established in the franchise’s second outing. The camera work is stunning, with many long takes allowing the action to unfold in real time, similar to Mission: Impossible – Fallout, rather than the quick cutting often employed by action films. The editing and CGI work is also brilliantly done, with subtle graphics being used to up the violence and help bring certain plot points to life. Equally great is the sound design, with the engineers making full use of surround sound to have bullets and horse trots whizzing past our ears.

Overall, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is as good a film as its title is convoluted (i.e very). Enough story to keep it going and some truly awe-inspiring action sequences, it promises that future inevitable instalments will continue this incredible story of assassins and mythology in the underbelly of our society.

5 stars 5

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