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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Review

May 20, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Keanu Reeves stars as 'John Wick' in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM. Image Credit: Lionsgate
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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Review  

John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum Review

Keanu Reeves– John Wick
Halle Berry– Sofia
Ian McShane– Winston
Larry Fishburne– The Bowery King (as Laurence Fishburne)
Mark Dacascos– Zero
Asia Kate Dillon– The Adjudicator
Lance Redick– Charon
Anjelica Huston– The Director
Said Taghmaoui– The Elder
Jerome Flynn– Berrada
Jason Mantzoukas– Tick Tock Man
Cecep Arif Rahman– Shinobi 1
Yayan Ruhian– Shinobi 2
Tiger Chen– Triad
Roger Yuan– Huang

Directed by Chad Stahelski
Screenplay by Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, and Marc Abrams, based on a story by Derek Kolstad and characters created by Derek Kolstad

Distributed by Lionsgate

Rated R for pervasive strong violence and some language
Runtime– 130 minutes



John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum, directed by Chad Stahelski, is one of the greatest badass action movies ever made, managing to surpass the work Stahelski and company did in the first John Wick sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2, which is astonishing considering just how great Chapter 2 is. Stahelski, star Keanu Reeves, and everyone involved with the production did, though. John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum is an out and out badass action movie masterpiece.

Parabellum picks up where Chapter 2 ended, with uber assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) on the run after being termed excommunicado by Winston, manager of the assassin hotel The Continental, for “conducting business on Continental grounds” (he killed a guy at the hotel, which is against the rules). Winston gave Wick an hour head start before the assassin’s guild/”The Table”/whatever the hell the assassin organization actually is called puts out a $14 million bounty on Wick’s head. Once the hour is up and the bounty is made official, Wick cannot receive help from anyone involved in the big hooha assassins guild world. Can John Wick survive on his own?

Of course he can. He’s John Wick, the greatest assassin in the history of assassins. The man can do pretty much anything and he no doubt has a plan. Even so, Wick knows that being by himself isn’t going to be easy. He’s still going to have to fight and claw his way through the army of killers he knows will be after him. Even if Wick is the scariest and most deadly assassin in the history of assassins, how can you pass up the chance at killing him and collecting fourteen million dollars?

So Wick heads the New York public library to retrieve a special book that he left there just in case of an emergency, takes out a gigantic assassin that goes after Wick before the hour grace period is up, and then heads to a street surgeon to get patched up before he initiates his big plan. After getting half fixed up (Wick has to finish stitching up a shoulder wound because the surgeon ran out of time), Wick is attacked almost immediately by a gang of triad gangsters (watch for Man of Tai Chi star Tiger Chen here as one of the triad killers and the great Roger Yuan as a man named Huang). Once he escapes death in a gun shop (the first of many brilliantly put together action set pieces), Wick dodges several more attacks (and by “dodges” I mean he kills a bunch of people trying to kill him) and heads to see The Director (Anjelica Huston), an old woman gangster that runs a ballet school/assassin school. Wick wants to get out of the country, and The Director is someone he knows can do that for him. The Director doesn’t want to help Wick at all, as she is bound by the dictates of “The Table,” but Wick manages to convince her to help him (she owes him a pass). Wick wants The Director to send him to Casablanca.

So Wick goes to Casablanca. While that is happening, The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) shows up at The Continental to talk with Winston about, and eventually fire him for, helping Wick after breaking the rules. The Adjudicator gives Winston a week to “get his affairs in order,” something Winston is pissed off about. Winston doesn’t think he actually broke the rules. Why should he have to leave managing The Continental? The Adjudicator then heads to see Zero (the great Mark Dacascos), a master assassin who may be the equal of John Wick in terms of deadliness. The Adjudicator “hires” Zero to help her dole out the necessary punishments to the people and entities that helped John Wick after he broke the rules. She sends Zero to see The Director and the Bowery King (Larry “Laurence” Fishburne), and they are dealt with harshly. No one is above the rules and no one is above The Table.

Back in Casablanca, Wick is there to see old friend Sofia (Halle Berry), who happens to manage the Casablanca version of The Continental. After some catching up and meeting Sofia’s killer dogs, Wick asks for her help in finding The Elder, the one person in the world who is apparently “above the Table.” Sofia doesn’t know where The Elder is, but she knows someone who might know where he is, Berrada (Jerome Flynn), the guy who runs the foundry that makes the gold coins and whatnot for the assassin guild. So Sofia takes Wick to see Berrada and, amazingly, Wick sort of finds out where the Elder is and how to contact him. Wick and Sofia have to pay a price, though, for that information (and not dying at Berrada’s hands because Wick is still excommunicado and Sofia is helping him. The rules are still the rules). Wick and Sofia have no intention of paying that price. Another terrific set piece breaks out (holy crap this scene is amazing), and Wick and Sofia eventually head to the desert to find the Elder. Sofia won’t travel with Wick, though. Meeting the Elder is something Wick will have to do himself.

So Wick wanders around the mega hot desert for a day or so with basically no water and eventually passes out from the heat and exhaustion. He is picked up by a man on a camel who just so happens to be a henchman for The Elder (Said Taghmaoui). When he wakes up, Wick talks with The Elder and pleads his case. The Elder can retract the bounty and make Wick a part of the assassin world again. All Wick has to do is agree to “Serve and to be of service.” So Wick agrees to The Elder’s demands and becomes an assassin in good standing again. Wick’s first job as a part of the team again? Kill Winston.

Now, for whatever reason, it takes some time for the assassin world to get the message that Wick is no longer excommunicado. Wick is attacked by Zero and his goons (the great Yayan Ruhian is among them) when he arrives back in New York City to complete his assignment. Wick heads to The Continental to confront Winston and partake in The Continental’s services. Wick talks with Zero while there and finds out that Zero is a “big fan,” a sentiment that doesn’t sit well with Wick. Charon (Lance Redick) takes Wick to see Winston, and it’s here that Wick has to make a choice. Does he go through with what he promised The Elder, or does he stick by his old friend Winston? Winston did, after all. Give him a one hour grace period after breaking the rules. You don’t forget a thing like that.

The Adjudicator wants Wick to fulfill his promise to The Elder and the Table. If he doesn’t, Wick will once again become excommunicado, and, by extension, the New York City Continental will become deconsecrated, too. If that happens, Winston is fair game, Wick is fair game, and the hotel is fair game. Wick’s decision unleashes a series of action set pieces that set the bar for all future action movies. The shootouts and hand-to-hand scenes are breathtaking. There’s just no other word to describe them.

John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum is an amazing spectacle. Every action set piece is something to behold from every aspect: visuals, choreography, camera work, and sound. There isn’t a boring segment, a throwaway sequence, a moment that isn’t absolutely necessary to tell the movie’s story. Every action sequence tells its own story, is clearly visible (even when the cinematography is dark because of the environment Wick finds himself in you can still see what’s happening), and is an escalation over the previous one. The hand-to-hand sequences and shootouts all come off as practical affairs with a minimum of CGI, and the motorcycle chase sequences, even when they’re “obviously CGI” because no stunt performer in his or her right mind would agree to do what we see, don’t look as “CGI” as they could have. Director Stahelski and stunt coordinator/fight choreographer Jonathan Eusebio and the entire stunt operation deserve some sort of special cinema award for what they all achieve. John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum is the new gold standard for badass action cinema.

My favorite action sequence? The shotgun sequence. Watching Reeves as Wick take out multiple bad guys with a shotgun, several of them shot in the head (and we get to see it!), and reload with smooth efficiency is a sequence that I plan on watching again and again and again when the movie hits home video and television. I thought the shotgun sequence in Chapter 2 was the greatest shotgun action scene in movie history. Parabellum blows that one out of the water and then shoots it in the fucking face.

The hand-to-hand sequences are just so great that it’s hard to pick the best one of the bunch. Reeves has met his match in the great Mark Dacascos and, towards the end of the movie, Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman. Their fights with Reeves, both in straight hand-to-hand combat and with knives and swords, are just so damn good that you feel worn out after watching them. And kudos to the person who came up with the “room filled with panes of glass” fight scene. Holy crap, that scene will have you on the edge of your seat.

The plot expands on, I guess we can call it, the “John Wick and the world of assassins” mythology. The world is even bigger than anyone thought, with all sorts of new facets and layers of assassin bureaucracy. And what is the deal with The Elder? Why is he The Elder? What makes him so damn special? And is The Elder we see really the true Elder? This aspect of the story is my own real quibble with the movie. Why isn’t The Elder a big name actor, like a Clint Eastwood or Chow Yun-Fat or someone of that stature? No offense to Said Taghmaoui, who does a fine job with the actual role, but it would have been great to see someone with a bigger box office name/action movie stature in the part. Maybe we’ll see that in the fourth chapter?

Now, is it me or is this movie super loud? It sure seemed like the theatre I saw it in had the volume jacked up. The music, the gun shots, the goddamn shotgun blasts were, at times, ear splitting. And I was in a regular theatre, I wasn’t in an IMAX or RPX theatre, where the sound is always deafening (I saw The Equalizer in IMAX and I can still hear that movie and that was five years ago). Did this happen to anyone else?

Keanu Reeves has now achieved full on action star icon status as John Wick. There is no question and no doubt that Reeves is the guy that all other action stars are going to be chasing for the next while, at least when it comes to big screen action. Reeves is John Wick. It’s amazing to watch him handle the various weapons he handles, take out as many bad guys as he does, and make it look so effortless. And Reeves never once looks ridiculous or out of place doing anything.

Halle Berry does a fantastic job as Sofia, the Casablanca Continental manager and killer dog wielding assassin. She compliments Reeves quite well when they team up, and Berry looks just as credible as her co-star kicking ass and taking names. Sofia seems a little more flamboyant with her gun handling (it looked like she extended her gun hand out more often than Reeves) and, is it me, or does Sofia shoot people in the head twice more often than Wick? Is that Sofia’s thing? It will be interesting to see if this part leads to more straight up action stuff for the former Bond girl and Oscar winner.

Mark Dacascos kicks so much ass as the top assassin Zero. He’s brutal, he’s efficient, and he’s hilarious. He is Wick’s deadliest opponent so far in the franchise, and Dacascos, an old pro when it comes to action cinema, shows that he deserves to be in bigger movies. He has the presence and charisma necessary to do it.

Ian McShane does his usual top notch job as Winston, the manager of the NYV Continental. He’s actually more laid back here than in the previous two entries, something I didn’t think was possible. McShane shines more towards the end of the movie than at the beginning. What the hell is Winston going to do next? And Lance Reddick, as Charon the desk manager, gets to join in on the action fun towards the end of the movie. Who knew that Charon was such a badass himself?

Larry Fishburne shows up for a few scenes as the Bowery King and, as he always does, kills it. And Anjelica Huston is mean as hell as The Director, something I assume she enjoyed doing because, much like Fishburne, it looks like she’s having the time of her life here.

Asia Kate Dillon is fascinating as The Adjudicator, the Table representative that is all about following the rules. We have no idea where she comes from, why she’s a part of the group, if she’s herself an assassin just doing what amounts to a desk job. Why isn’t anyone going after her? How does she avoid getting caught up in the mayhem that she can order via phone? Perhaps that will be explored in the next one.

And there will be a Chapter 4. There has to be. Director Stahelski and star Reeves clearly have more story to tell, more fights to stage, more bad guys to kill, and new action movie cinema barriers to knock down. I can’t wait to see that happen. And I can’t wait to see John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum again. It really is one of those kinds of movies.

See John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum. See it, see it, goddamn see it!


So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 167 (according to I have no reason to doubt them).

Explosions: A few.

Nudity? None.

Doobage: Running, a massive traffic jam, a cab ride for a dog, the New York Public Library, a public library brawl, shoulder stabbing, book used as a deadly weapon, attempted iron claw, serious neck breaking, graphic wound repair, two well placed bullets to the body, gun shop hooey, a gun shop brawl that turns into a hellacious knife fight, a great knife throwing back and forth, a vicious knife to the top of the head, gruesome eye stabbing, axe to the fucking head, multiple vehicular assaults, double horse kick to the head, multiple punches to the balls, horse riding, multiple motorcycle accidents, ballet hooey, bloody toenail removal, walking, back branding, a body burning infrastructure in the basement, a knife fight in the streets, multiple bullets to the head, fish cutting, multiple silent ninja sieges with copious amounts of knife and swordplay, double hand stabbing, gold coin hooey, attempted dog killing, a massive shootout, machine gun to the head, dog attack, dead guy ammo stealing, desert hooey, water drinking, more slice and dice, guy on a camel, deliberate finger removal, wound cauterization, off screen bath and new wardrobe, a motorcycle sword duel, some terrific bike stunts, a funny couch bit, serious face licking, a room full of crystal skulls, lots of guns, multiple buses filled with killers decked out in full body armor, multiple flashbang grenades, multiple bullets to the back of the neck, serious shotgun city, multiple exploding heads, attempted underwater gun fight, serious broken glass, some terrific swordplay, throat slitting, belt used as a weapon against guys with knives, sword through the chest, a clear glass room set piece, multiple unexpected events, and the promise of a fourth chapter.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Keanu Reeves, Keanu Reeves running on the streets of New York City with a dog at his side, Ian McShane, Jason Mantzoukas, the New York City Public Library, a hidden stash, photo kissing, a guy named Ernest, a brawl inside the New York Public Library, Keanu Reeves using a book as a weapon, Larry Fishburne, Tiger Chen, Roger Yuan, Keanu Reeves riding a horse, Eastern European bullshit, Anjelica Huston, “Everything is under the table,” public hookah smoking, a Pepsi vending machine, Halle Berry, Halley Berry with two dogs, Mark Dacascos, a ballet interlude, a discussion on where the term “assassin” comes from, talk of consequences, a walking through the desert montage, henchmen with swords on motorcycles, “fanboy assassin’ talk, Mark Dacascos shaving his head, Keanu Reeves going apeshit with a shotgun, Yayan Ruhian, a brawl in a room full of glass, multiple unexpected events, and the promise of a fourth chapter.

Best lines: “Tick tock, Mr. Wick, tick, tock,” “Consider your origins,” “Sorry, Mr. Wick. Rules are rules,” “And away we go,” “Good luck, Mr. Wick. Thanks, doc,” “Where are you going, John?,” “Be seeing you,” “I still have my ticket,” “Art is pain,” “Because of a puppy?,” “The path to paradise begins in hell,” “Welcome to the Continental, how may I help you?,” “I am the bowery!,” “Welcome to Casablanca, Mr. Wick. Thanks,” “You a dog person, John?,” “Sit. I was talking to you, John,” “Sometimes you gotta kill what you love,” “Blowfish. Very fatal,” “I have served. I will be of service,” “No, you cannot keep my dog,” “He shot my dog. I get it,” “You’re gonna die, John. Either out here in the desert or someplace else down the road, but, you are going to die,” “Consequences, consequences,” “Sometimes you gotta cut a motherfucker!,” “So, Johnathon, tell me, why do you wish to live?,” “I wish you good luck on your path,” “See, that’s why you’re special, John Wick. I wouldn’t have stopped,” “I’d like to see the manager,” “We’re both masters of death,” “It seems like everyone is suffering from their own consequences,” “The New York Continental has been deconsecrated. Goodbye,” “This haven is safe no more,” “I know you’ll do the Continental proud,” “If you want peace, prepare for war,” “No one kills you but me!,” “It’s an honor to fight with you, Mr. Wick,” “See? We’re the same,” “I would like to suggest a parlay. A parlay would be good,” “Hey, John, that was a pretty good fight, huh? Yeah,” “Don’t worry about me, John. I just need to catch my breath. I’ll catch up to you, John. No, you won’t,” “Well played, sir,” and “Are you pissed, John? Yeah.”

The final score: review Virtually Perfect
The 411
John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum is a full on, big screen badass action cinema masterpiece. From the story to the performances to the action set pieces, there isn’t a bad moment in the movie’s 130 minute running time. Director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves and everyone else involved have put forth a monumental achievement in action cinema and, for the foreseeable future, Parabellum is going to be the benchmark for all big screen action cinema until they decide to make Chapter 4. And, yes, there will no doubt be a Chapter 4. I, for one, can’t wait to see that. And I can’t wait to see John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum again. You need to see this movie. Now! Go see it!