John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum Movie Review: Gratuitous but supremely satisfying
Keanu Reeves as John Wick is the heart, soul, and everything of this film. He once again proves why he might be one of the last action heroes of Hollywood
In the first John Wick movie, the primary antagonist narrates an anecdote about how the deadly assassin, played by Keanu Reeves, once killed three men, using just a pencil. We never saw how he did it, but, nonetheless, believed it. In John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, we see Reeves kill a man with just a book. I expected a stapler or paper clip will be used for the next bloody killing. You see, the entire John Wick franchise is not mounted on a multi-layered story. The premise is simple: John Wick must not die. For that to happen, he must kill, and it is the inventiveness of these killings that has fuelled this franchise thus far.
Director: Chad Stahelski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne
Right from the first film where the murder of a puppy and a damaged 1969 Mustang drew John Wick out of self-imposed retirement, you knew the franchise wasn't about the story or redeeming emotional arcs. It is simply Keanu Reeves leaving a blood trail wherever he goes and looking bloody good while at it. In Parabellum, the trail is messier, and oh-so-gorgeous to look at. While it is clear that the showcasing of violence is gratuitous, you can't help but be awed by it. Where else would you find an assassin using a horse's hind legs to smash the heads of his assailants? How else would you see a tightly-shot combat scene that involves rows of glass cabinets with antique knives, which are later found thrust into eye sockets and ribcages?
Unlike the earlier chapters where John Wick was assured and self-effacing, Parabellum sees him at his most vulnerable. He is no longer the hunter and is now being hunted by the 'High Table' (a consortium of assassins bound by a strict model code of conduct) who have not taken his transgressions at the Continental very lightly. Asia Kate Dillon makes a calm, yet menacing appearance as the adjudicator for the High Table. The adjudicator takes to task the people who helped John Wick escape. Be it Winston (Ian McShane), the manager of the Continental, or Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King, all pay a price for helping John Wick.
Certain things that worked like clockwork in the first two chapters go astray in the third. However, interestingly, these flaws are masked using unexpected detours. Just as the deadpan humour of John Wick starts to get stale, you have the in-your-face humour of fanboy-turned-assassin Zero (Mark Dacascos), who brings the roof down even as he poses a serious threat. While it is unsettling to see a beaten down John Wick making his way to meet old friends and almost pleading them to honour their word, we are allowed a glimpse into how The Director (Anjelica Huston) transformed Jardani Jovonovich into the John Wick we know and have fallen in love with. Though Parabellum begins as a race against time, it suddenly shifts gears when the film moves out of New York, and the long stretches of nothingness affect the film. But, it is here that we come across Sofia (Halle Berry) and her two 'ferocious but oh-so-cute' dogs who go straight for the crotch at anyone who dares raise a finger against their mother. On a side note, Berry is so badass in her role of an assassin with a past that it wouldn't be far-fetched to assume there will soon be a John Wick spinoff titled Sofia.
Reeves as John Wick is the heart, soul, and everything of this film. He once again proves why he might be one of the last action heroes of Hollywood. He might not turn green when angry or summon a hammer at will, but John Wick is a superhero nonetheless. One look at Reeves stuffing bullets into his automatic weapons makes everything feel right in the world. Even while being thrown into multiple glass cabinets, you know he is going to find a way to kill every enemy coming his way. Be it while galloping on a horse on the streets of New York or zooming in a bike on a defunct bridge, you know he'd come out of it all with just a scratch here and a gash there. John Wick does all of this with style and pizzazz oozing from every frame of this beautiful-looking film, courtesy cinematographer Dan Laustsen who even made the interior of a rusty old bathroom come to life in Guillermo Del Toro's Shape of Water.
With every instalment, it is clear that John Wick might not be able to call it quits and get the peace he so hopes for. Parabellum is Latin for "Prepare for War", and with yet another cliffhanger ending, it is clear that a bloodier, deadlier, and messier war will be unleashed, and more bodies will be buried when Baba Yaga returns. Soon.