The first two John Wick movies have been commercial and critical successes. This may be based on its simple formula. There are gorgeous settings, surprisingly deep lore, and a whole lot of dead bodies. John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum seems to follow the same pattern. But is it worth seeing or another example of getting too much of a good thing?
The best thing about the John Wick franchise is that it has always played to its strengths. Parabellum is no different. The biggest example is seen in its star Keanu Reeves. While Reeves has appeared in many fan favorite films, he has been lauded more for his persona than his performance. Parabellum is no different, which is exactly as it should be.
Wick is a broken man who has had the things he loved the most in life taken from him. He has been dragged back literally kicking and screaming into his old profession. Along the way he has made enemies of pretty much the entire world. He may be the best at what he does, but as Wick states in the third installment, all he has to live for is the memory of love.
It sounds corny because it is. But all great love stories are cheesy at their core. What makes it work so well is a combination of Reeves’s performance and the writing. The script never calls for Wick to go into long exposition nor does the story have long flashback scenes to fill in the backstory. Reeves plays the titular role naturally making the character as relatable as a super assassin can be. That being said, there is some very awkward scripting in the movie.
Parabellum also sees characters from the previous entries returning, but it is the new characters that are the true stand outs. Halle Berry leaves a strong impression as Sofia. Wick and Sofia team up in an incredibly shot fight scene that is one of the best in recent film history. The use of dogs is imaginative and the entire scene is very exciting. Mark Dacascos is great as Zero, an assassin who idolizes Wick. The two characters seem destined to return in John Wick sequels.
The third movie also does a great job on building on the lore of the franchise. John Wick may be a series of over the top action movies, but the world building is top notch. The first movie introduced audiences to the Continental and hinted at a deep underworld network, while Chapter 2 may have been a little too full of itself at times. Parabellum finds a great mix that is not overblown but separates it from just another action movie. (If the franchise continues, this is definitely something to keep an eye. The story can easily become too convoluted.)
Strong lore and cool characters are great, but the main draw of the John Wick movies are the intense fight scenes. Parabellum does not disappoint as within the first five minuets the audience is treated to an exciting sequence in a library. These scenes are the clear highlight of the movie. I was in a sold out theater and after each fight scene you could hear people audibly exhaling. These sequences are beautifully choreographed and are a visual treat.
With its wild motorcycle chases, countless hits to the groin, and insanely high body count, Parabellum sounds ridiculous. To a certain extent, it is. And that is the paradox of the movie. Parabellum never takes itself seriously and by doing so, it never becomes parody. There is an honesty to the movie that is unexpected and makes the entire endeavor that much more enjoyable.
There are some flaws in Parabellum. With a movie as action packed as this one, the audience definitely needs time to catch their breath. Here, it sometimes seems like the film is spinning its wheels. Also Asia Kate Dillon falls very flat. Her character is important, but is also very bland. This may be the way the role was written, but it is noticeably bad.
John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a great addition to the high octane franchise. Almost all of the new characters introduced are great additions. John Wick is an easy character to get behind. Most importantly, the fight scenes are incredible; they manage to stay fun and original and the audience will never get bored of them. For better and worse, John Wick 3 exceeds expectations.