John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabelum — Movie Review
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is directed by Chad Stahelski, who did all of the John Wick films so far, and co-written by the franchise’s creator Derek Kolstad. This sequel takes place immediately after the events of John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) where the titular hitman, played by Keanu Reeves, is declared excommunicado by the Continental and is now hunted by every assassin in the world. John Wick is forced fight to survive without any access or resources that he usually gets from the Continental.
I really liked the corny opening lines of every instalment so far ’cause it really kickstarts the excitement, including this one. When Winston (Ian McShane), the Continental Hotel manager, is asked whether he thinks John Wick would survive, he answers, “Well they have a 14 million dollar bounty on John Wick and every assassin in the world wants a piece of it. I’d say the odds are pretty even.” That’s so awesome.
So it’s no longer a revenge story for a puppy. The role is sort of reversed now. John Wick, the Baba Yaga, the legendary hunter, is now being hunted. The movie really made me feel like John is out of his depth and threats are literally at every corner as though every single person on the street is an assassin. The ending of previous instalment really set up a perfect excuse for the next film to offer lots of action in almost any direction John Wick takes and that is exactly what we get from this sequel.
I am once again impressed by the spectacular fight choreography. It’s amazing how after two films they still managed to come up with fresh, creative ways to keep the martial arts combat and gun-fu interesting, fun and thrilling to watch. It’s like as though this franchise was actually meant to be a video game and Chapter 3 is actually Level 3 where it gets harder and all the equipment and inventory are taken away from the player.
The film take us to several different locations and sets for the action. From New York City to Casablanca in Morocco. I particularly liked the part where John Wick has to fight a few guys in a place where it’s like a museum of ancient weapons and they just keep breaking the glasses, and taking and using every knife, sword and axe on display.
The action sequences are bloody gritty, violent and brutal, more so than the first two films, I think. Definitely bigger and better eventhough it’s not as stylish as before. When someone gets hit, it’s like we could feel the hard impact. When someone gets stabbed or cut, we could actually see it happening in the same shot. I was like woh, oooo, ouch!
Many western action flicks shoot their fight scenes closeup with plenty of short takes. Some are even shaky till you can’t even tell what’s happening or who’s punching who and how. But in great action thrillers like John Wick 1, 2 and 3, the fight scenes are shot wide and clear. And the takes are longer before they are cut to a different angle. Even the gun-fight sequences here show the shooter and recipient in the same shot.
However, the film doesn’t feel as realistic as before. There are times John Wick seems to be invincible. There’s one scene where he gets hit by two cars back-to-back that have intention of killing him but he survives without even a broken bone. But we can easily look pass that ’cause the film maintains its campy, corny, serious but not really kind of tone. It has a pretty good sense of humour too.
Keanu Reeves, awesome performance by him once again. Like in previous two films and in The Matrix trilogy (1999 – 2003), it’s obvious that he did all the fight sequences himself and maybe even the stunts in chase scenes. If you haven’t seen videos of his target-shooting sessions and Brazilian Jiujitsu training, go look for it. He is genuinely skilled with martial arts and firearms. He’s a real deal, man.
The film’s cast includes Mark Dacascos as Zero, the main assassin hunting for John. When I was a kid, I loved him in Only the Strong (1993) and it doesn’t seem like he has lost his moves or corniness. And there are glimpses of his Capoeira kicks too.
Other highlight opponents John has to face are Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman, the Indonesian martial artists and actors who are most known for playing the skillful villains in The Raid 1 and 2 (2011, 2014). The slower John has to defend himself against these two quick Silat practitioners. I’m also pleased that the Indonesian actors get to say a few lines in their native tongue. To me, that is just Stahelski showing acknowledgement and respect to these two awesome guys.
Halle Berry is also quite impressive here as well. Her character, Sofia, does not appear in the movie a lot but she does have some really awesome action scenes and they are shot in wide angle as well. Sofia also has a pair of fierce dogs that like to bite people’s balls off. And her dogs are heavily involved in her action sequences. There are some creative use of animals in this film and the dogs are treated properly. This John should really teach the other Jon (Snow of Game of Thrones TV series) how to treat the goodest bois.
It’s obvious the film also had more budget to burn than before so there are more vehicle chase scenes this time with one involving a horse ridden by John. I usually find chase scenes in movies boring but the motorbike one here is quite awesome.
If this film had a better plot and storytelling, it could easily be one of the top 10 best action thrillers of all time. In the previous two instalments, the plot is simple but this sequel really tries to expand the world-building. It definitely has more plot than the last two films. Some scenes give us a better understanding of how the Continental works and a deeper background of John, while some felt like fillers for a breather. You know, in case we had too much action (ha-ha).
The ending doesn’t make sense to me but whatever. The John Wick movies are not defined by the plot. It’s the fight scenes. Regardless of its issues, I still loved this sequel and I think I liked it more than the previous instalments.
Genre: Action thriller
Running Time: 131 minutes
Director: Chad Stahelski
Screenwriters: Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Colllins, Marc Abrams
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose
Malaysia Release Date: 16 May 2019
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Production: Thunder Road Pictures, 87Eleven Productions