How many ways can you shoot a man in the face? John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum has the answer: Three, just like the magic number of this installment of the John Wick franchise, also the best action movie you will see this year, and maybe for a very long time.
Parabellum picks up where the previous film left off. Wick (Keanu Reeves) is wounded, tired, and on the run after killing a man on Continental grounds, deemed “excommunicado” from the cool kids’ assassin club by Management (Ian McShane) If you’re confused about that last sentence, you haven’t seen the other two films, so what are you doing reading this? Now, a $14 million worldwide bounty is on his head, which means a lot of people are going to die because there’s a major problem for anyone trying to collect this bounty: John Wick, who is now so popular that assassins not only want to kill him for the money, but for the fame of killing him.
Parabellum has an incredible amount of detail, from the fight scenes to the colorful decor, atmosphere, and sleek clothing. One of the smartest and slickest details about this franchise has nothing to do with the fights: the telephone operators. They all have old-school sailor tattoos and use first-generation computers, typewriters, rotary telephones, and other old technology to send out messages to assassins. With technology rapidly changing every day, the decision to purposely use old school technology makes the franchise timeless. Director Chad Stahelski (director of the first two installments and Reeves’ stunt double for The Matrix trilogy, a great many of whose actors show up here) meticulously calculates every shot for the fight scenes. As quick as Wick is, the camera follows his every movie as he takes down one baddie after another, with most kills in jaw-dropping ways.
For the fight scenes, there are long takes so you know it’s Reeves doing his own, remarkable stunts. At 55, Keanu moves and fights like he’s 22. Stahelski puts Wick in every difficult situation possible — between library stacks pitted against a giant (played by Philadelphia 76ers center Boban Marjanović), an uncomfortably close underwater shootout, a room full of swords and knives surrounded by a dozen assassins. Fight choreographer/stunt coordinator Jonathan Eusebio (John Wick 1 and 2) and stunt coordinator Scott Rogers (the Jason Bourne movies) help make John Wick into a character who’s quick on improvisation and kills in some of the fastest ways I’ve seen in cinema. An assassin is lucky if Wick is only fighting with his belt because that just prolongs death. A knife or library book? Your seconds are numbered.
Added to that, the large roster of assassins will please martial arts fans: Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman from The Raid movies, Tiger Hu Chen from Man of Tai Chi, and Mark Dacascos from Brotherhood of the Wolf, who not only shows off his martial arts skills but impeccable comedic timing.
John Wick 3 — Parabellum confirms that Keanu Reeves should be the biggest action star on the planet. While putting on a great show for the crowd, his level of dedication he puts into stunt work has made him a real trained fighter. What started as another action flick has now turned into one of the greatest action franchises in film history, rivaling The Raid franchise — a sentence I never thought I would write. It’s James Bond, but with better action scenes and a much slicker character who doesn’t look bored but determined. John Wick movies will be talked about and watched long after you and I are gone.
Starring Keanu Reeves. Directed by Chad Stahelski. Written by Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, and Marc Abrams. Rated R