Those asking whether this latest high-octane action fest needs a third chapter, the answer is most definitely yes. And the third part doesn’t disappoint. In fact, there are so many ways to kill a person that it becomes a ‘hit-man’s guide to the galaxy’ – if not a survival manual in the case of John Wick. All those The Matrix moves dodging bullets has done Keanu Reeves a career favour. Neo or Wick, Reeves has little to convince us of that he is the man for the job once more.
Chapter 3 called ‘Parabellum’ – Latin for “prepare for war’ – picks up where we left John Wick two years earlier, about to become a wanted man with a substantial price on his head. Going straight into ‘live action’ gaming mode, you strap in for the ride with a silly grin, with series director and former The Matrix stuntman Chad Stahelski confidently picking up the reigns again, and showing his impressive talent for directing action movies.
Indeed this action series is unlike others. Yes, you have trouble breathing for 15 mins from when the clock strikes the sixth hour and all bets are off. However, for such a genre movie, it does halt the pace to allow its characters time with their animals. This is a animal-devoted action movie, if there is such a thing. There are dogs, more dogs too. What becomes of them would be a spoiler alert, but let’s just say, Stahelski is alert to fans’ previous horror at events in the first 2014 film.
Reeves is a little older and more ‘mortal’ in this, making the sheer pain Wick endures all the more credible. There are some utterly exhilarating set pieces, too many to pick a favourite – it really depends on your taste in how a ‘baddie’ should perish? The actor must be commended for his endurance if anything, making Wick a greater anti-hero than he was before. The film plays to the crowd as the body count mounts, but the style in which it is carried out is sheer bliss to behold.
Ian McShane thrillingly returns as charming ‘Winston’, The Continental’s suave manager and Wick’s ally of sorts, and with him brings even more lore to the shady underworld setting of the hotel. There is a thirst to know exactly what is behind this stylish criminal institution, and the welcome addition of Asia Kate Dillon as the steely and calculating ‘Adjudicator’ sent by the High Table (the top echelon of the organisation) to overhaul hotel management and oversee the Wick’s manhunt adds to the whole mysterious affair.
Halle Berry who is no stranger to action roles also adds another character dimension and huge backstory question mark as Sofia, another dog devotee who substitutes canine companionship for personal loss. The full dog scene with her and Reeves fighting shows how the dogs are as much the stars of this as the humans are.
Chapter 3 does not dispense with the humour and lighter moments – even mid battle. Mark Dacascos as another assassin called Zero offers up some hilarious lines at the most unusual times and frankly steals those scenes. Yet again, Stahelski and team pick their new cast members wisely and choreograph the action for just the right duration before you become immune to, or even weary of it. Visually, the luscious cinematography helps set the right ambiance at any one moment.
There is little to fault John Wick 3 of, but perhaps, all the additional characters mean another episode is needed to then explain their motivations and tie up yet more lose ends. Some might be left wondering whether The Matrix star Laurence Fishburne’s character, the Bowery King, from the last outing gets more use this time around. Let’s just say there is more in store for ‘bird man’ and The Matrix fans will be well and truly in their element by the end.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a near perfect action movie with a solid, but flawed and likeable lead character that Reeves embodies fittingly. This film is probably the best so far, raising the deadly bar that much further, insanely so. There is almost too much of a good thing going on, with us spoilt by the impressive cast. Chapter 3 cannot be the end, regardless of the film-making team saying otherwise. At this rate, Reeves might just be playing Wick at 60 years-old+. Seriously hope so.