We pick up right where Chapter 2 ended. John Wick, with his trusty new pit-bull at his side, is on the run, with a bounty of 14 million dollars on his head by the underground society of trained killers. Before your butt has even grooved into your seat, the action takes off, including scenes where Wick beats the crap out of a guy with a book, beats assassins up with the help of a horse, and survives a stabbing or two. The energy early on is so good, I thought I was witnessing the start of a 4-star picture.
Alas, the energy slows a bit down, digging into the background of Wick's situation. With nearly all of New York city looking to kill John, he looks for a way to stay alive, seeking out his old Bulgarian friend The Director (played flawlessly by Anjelica Huston). She buys him time with safe passage to Morocco, while those who help John along the way- hotel boss- Winston (Ian McShane), Laurence Fishburne's underground ruler Bowery King, and concierge Charon (Lance Reddick), all must answer to The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon). Instead of John just being hunted, he's also putting his past friends in harms way with the society. John's decisions have consequences that he must survive with.
When the story arrives to Morocco it's not a lesser kind of action, it's just different, with the introduction of Sofia (Halle Berry bringing out her killer instinct), who runs a hotel, with her two trusty, killer dogs by her side. It becomes a fascinating moment, where John and Sofia team up in impressive fashion, with the camera of cinematographer Dan Laustsen spinning us, shifting from side to side, catching every kill, dogs sinking their teeth into henchman, and every moment of the action thrills.
The way I like to describe the John Wick films and director Chad Stahelski's approach is that this is a symphony of violence. The way this film moves and flows, gun shots blasting from left to right, with fight sequences so beautifully choreographed, it makes an argument that Judo fighters should perform Swan Lake. The action is vibrantly soaked in neon colors, brimming with gorgeous set designs, it becomes impossible to not fall in love with a movie that caters to my favorite genres, and reaches new levels for a third installment.
It is also obvious that Stahelski has an appreciation for cinema of the past, casting fighters from The Raid 2, creating a universe that looks like a mixture of Blade Runner's Tokyo aesthetics meets New York 2019. The John Wick films have become something that is his own creation. It does not look like our current society, per se, but it is a bleak, dark future that we are headed towards. A place where everyone around us is a potential threat, people retreat to their factions, and those that are killed are disposed of, erased from the ground quicker than a used up piece of tissue.
On top of all the action is the fact that Keanu Reeves seems to be unstoppable, both as John Wick and as a popular figure of cinema. From Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, The Matrix, and Speed, he has continued to redefine himself as a star. His work in Parabellum is graceful with a gun, beautifully clumsy, and a sweet topping on what was already a successful franchise.
And the only reason why John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum isn't a 4-star movie? That's because I was hoping that this third installment would be the final chapter. Instead it ends with what will undoubtedly be more John Wick action in the future. My complaints, however, are small. John Wick is back doing what he does best, teaching a master class in kicking ass.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3- PARABELLUM
STARRING: KEANU REEVES; HALLE BERRY; ANJELICA HUSTON; IAN MCSHANE
DIRECTED BY: CHAD STAHELSKI
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Looking back at my notes for John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum, I scribbled down as much as I could early on, put my pen down, and enjoyed the ride. Following the success of John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2, this entire series has become one of the greatest gifts that cinema has offered us. I don't hesitate to say that, but deliver it with extreme confidence. I would call it one of my favorite trilogies of all time, but based on how Chapter 3 ends, it looks like John Wick movies are going to keep churning out- more on that later. Just know that Keanu Reeves is back as Wick and better than ever. The trained killer, with the long pitch black hair, the one that got revenge after the death of his wife and dog, the guy who can kill people with a pen or a pencil. In John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum, the stakes are higher than ever, with director Chad Stahelski finding more fascinating ways to entertain us, Keanu Reeves radiating with coolness more than ever, and once again, redefining the action film. John Wick does not slow down. He just reloads.