John Wick 3: Parabellum is a tsunami of gunplay, martial arts, and literally mind-blowing action. Keanu Reeves' third outing as the near invincible assassin will not disappoint fans of the franchise. He pops more baddies in the head than a teenager does pimples. Director Chad Stahelski ramps up every facet of the ultra-stylized violence. The stunt coordinator turned action master has become transcendent. The film is borderline cartoonish at times, but damned exciting to see.
Parabellum, prepare for war in Latin, has John Wick (Keanu Reeves) running for his life. The High Table, the international order of assassins, has branded him "excommunicado", and put a fourteen million dollar bounty on his head. He no longer has access to the Continental, but Winston (Ian McShane) has given him an hour head start. Alone and with limited options, John decides to cash in some very special markers for an emergency occasion.
We are introduced to the Director (Anjelica Huston), the strict taskmaster of a ballet/assassin training school. She and John Wick have a long history together. As John negotiates with her, a deadly visitor from the High Table has arrived at the Continental. The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) has come to punish those who helped John Wick. This is bad news for Winston and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne). She unleashes a sword wielding specialist, Zero (Mark Dacascos), and his goons to exact bloody penance. John Wick must ask a favor from an old friend (Halle Berry).
The stunt choreography is amazing. Chad Stahelski, who has worked with Keanu Reeves since The Matrix, is completely in sync with his star. John Wick's fight scenesare expertly staged and unrelenting. Every fight is bigger and better, with a lot more comedy thrown in. The pacing never allows you to take a breath. It's an adrenaline thrill ride that goes over the top with gusto.
Danish cinematographer Dan Laustsen, who also shot John Wick 2, delivers greatness. The film looks gorgeous. From the electric neon lighting, to the masterful use of muted colors, John Wick 3 is a feast for the eyes. Laustsen's work is award worthy. John Wick fights on rain soaked streets, in a ballet theater, the desert, there are quite a few different settings. Every one of them is beautifully lit and shot. I sincerely hope fans recognize the skill that went into the "look" of the film. The action takes center stage, but the cinematography is par excellence.
John Wick 3 has an interesting plot to a certain point. The machinations of the High Table, the new characters, and the glistening markers are intriguing. The world of contract killers is explored in detail. The film gets lost in the weeds with John Wick's superman-like invincibility. Wave after wave of bad guys get their heads blown off. The character takes some licks, but is never in real danger. There's a point where the film becomes cartoonish. It doesn't help that Reeves has very little dialogue. The supporting characters carry the weight of the script. I realize this is a pure genre film, but writer Derek Kolstad, who also created the franchise, needed to add more depth to his lead. I felt the character's personality took a step back here.
Action junkies are going to blissfully overdose. John Wick 3 will kick your ass into the ground. It boggles the mind that Keanu Reeves is fifty-four. He hasn't lost a step as a great action star. His collaborations with Chad Stahelski continue to be sublime.