John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum— Upping the Ante for Action

(Originally written on May 28, 2019)

Given how successful the first two John Wick films were, it was inevitable how a third installment would eventually be created. The first movie gave audiences a small glimpse into its stylish and clean-cut underground world of assassins. Though its main selling point was well-choreographed action scenes, it also contained heavy emotion for the titular character (played by Keanu Reeves). The losses he experiences are somewhat relatable, and circumstances force him back into the world he wanted to leave forever.

The second film (aptly called Chapter 2) expanded upon the first in terms of world building with subtle aspects that shed some light on John’s past life as a professional assassin. It also introduced the concept of the ‘high table’, a group of individuals who serve as the authority on all things assassin-related in this world, and other people who play by their own rules (namely the character played by Laurence Fishburne) as well as more inventive moments of action.

So how does John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum compare to the first two films? At its core, this movie is all about the action. No, I really mean it. The story picks up right where the second movie ends with John on the run before he is declared ‘excommunicado’ for his recent actions. This means he will lose access to privileges and services he had before and will have a large bounty on his head, meaning being hunted by assassins wherever he goes.

While this setup isn’t the most complex, it does allow for the director, stunt coordinators and actors to create excellent action set pieces. The film gets your adrenaline pumping from the very beginning, so be prepared not to miss anything. The movie moves from scene to scene in how it delivers its creative action. I appreciate and applaud the stunt team and choreographers for bringing such elaborate moments to life for the film. Perhaps there should be a category for these behind-the-scenes crews at the Academy Awards?

However, while I certainly enjoyed what the film offered, I also found myself feeling fatigued by the end of it. As I mentioned earlier, this installment of the John Wick series is driven purely by the action. I suppose the plot allows for this since John is now a target for everybody, but I would have liked to have some breathing room in between all the gunfights/knife fights/hand-t0-hand combat/chases/etc. Granted, there are brief moments where the film ‘rests’ for a few minutes, so I shouldn’t complain too much.

Another minor gripe is how some character motivations aren’t that well thought out, especially for John himself. I won’t go into detail, but the supposed ‘consequences’ from certain choices made don’t feel impactful. I think this can get a pass since John Wick: Chapter 3 is an action movie first, and….well I guess it’s just an action movie through and through. I guess you’ll have to simply suspend your disbelief for this sophisticated and crazy world of assassins, even when some people are being killed in crowded areas.

Out of all the action films out there, I think the John Wick series has been the most consistent. They all have great action scenes and an ever growing world they continue to build upon in big and small ways. John Wick: Chapter 3 still retains that same flavour, but it is extremely intensified. If you’re an action junkie, I think you’ll love this movie.

And just a side note: out of the three films, I like the first one the best.

- A. Shin

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