Thursday, May 16, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum - Review

As a franchise, John Wick just may be the most improbable success in recent memory. From a practical standpoint, a film directed by a former stuntman about a stoic assassin all set in motion by stealing a car and killing a puppy sounds like an odd B-movie one might find late at night on cable television. And yet, audiences are now being given the third entry in said franchise (with talk of more on the horizon), and the bonkers elements only get bigger, the visuals more striking, and the action more insane.

After gunning down a member of the High Table -- the shadowy international assassin's guild -- legendary hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finds himself stripped of the organization's protective services. Now stuck with a $14 million bounty on his head, Wick must fight his way through the streets of New York as he becomes the target of the world's most ruthless killers.

In the first thirty minutes alone, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum more than earns the price of admission. The ticking clock of a pending open bounty provides extra adrenaline on top of a barrage of action scenes, each better than the last. From the creative use of library books to escape a very dicey situation, to a knife fight that is equal parts elegant and brutal, every moment serves as a preview of what is to come.

Of course, Keanu Reeves is back in the titular role, still as focused and stoic as ever, and fortunately, he still has a few allies in his pocket. Winston, played by Ian McShane, is still around to pull some strings and generally give Wick a source for his various weapons. The Bowery King, played by Laurence Fishburne, also returns, though with far less to do throughout.

However, the biggest addition, and the most helpful for John Wick’s survival, has to be Halle Berry as Sofia, a hotel manage in Casablanca who owes a debt and has more than enough skills to match Wick. For a brief moment, the film even becomes infatuated with the crafty and dangerous woman, almost forgetting that she isn’t the main character. Rest assured, there will be plenty more to see of her character in the future, in some way or another.

Director Chad Stahelski continues to develop as a director, but one thing doesn’t really need much work, his understanding of stunt work and the capabilities of his star. Reeves’ famed dedication to stunt work allows some of the action to feel more visceral and real than other action films. It’s remarkably well choreographed from start to finish, maintaining momentum and knowing precisely when to ramp up.

Not to be outdone is screenwriter Derek Kolstad, who continues to construct a world of assassins that never pauses to explain or outline the rules, trusting the audience to follow along instead. It’s certainly not the most complex story ever told, but it puts the characters into new and exciting situations that forward the plot in some fashion, even if that gives it near breakneck pace by the end.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is another successful entry in the growing franchise. Where most franchises may find an increased difficulty in upping the action and violence, John Wick embraces it, finds the morbid art of it all, and plants its feet firmly in that space. It’s unclear how long the filmmakers and Keanu Reeves plan to continue this franchise, but one thing is perfectly clear after Chapter 3: there are an infinite number of places that this character could go.

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