Review: ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ (dogs… lots of dogs)

Mr. Wick is showing no signs of slowing down.

Following the events of Chapter 2, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finds himself with an hour’s head-start before excommunication — and every assassin in New York City waiting to claim the bounty on John’s head. Unhappy some in their service may have broken the rules in assisting Wick, The High Table sends in an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) to press their agenda and ensure their target has nowhere to turn. As his options drop to zero, John considers seeking The Elder (Saïd Taghmaoui) for guidance on saving himself, but death may be preferred to the price of atonement.

The original John Wick was a surprise, much like The Matrix and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: risky movies with big ideas. Keanu Reeves may not have reinvented himself as many times as John Travolta, but it’s clear to anyone paying attention that his trademark-and-memed “whoa” isn’t all he is (just look up his charity work). With the work ethic of Tom Cruise but 99.9% less-likely to jump up and down on a couch, will eager fans be rewarded in their most recent wait for the overlong fight sequences and gun-fu violence that has distinctly become their Baba Yaga?

What is it about seeing anti-heroes beat down and continuing to get back up? Like Bruce Willis in his Die Hard movies, Reeves’ Wick takes unbelievable amounts of punishment while pushing equal amounts of his luck, always coming out slightly ahead. It’s easy to dismiss this kind of hyper-violent entertainment as free advertising for the NRA, but anyone believing they can survive anything the title character goes through with nary a gun-jam or missed shot is truly fooling themselves. The genius of John Wick is perfectly straddling the line between the fantastic and the ridiculous, and Parabellum is no exception.

Make no mistake: at over two non-stop hours, it’s as exhausting to watch as the performers must have been between takes… and just as satisfying. Falling somewhere between the body-count foolishness of Shoot ‘Em Up and the cold war seriousness of Atomic Blonde, the plot seems driven by set pieces and style-as-substance more than story considerations. Where would be a great place for a fight sequence? Grand Central Station? A room with everything made of glass? The only mystery for John Wick is how he gets out of one situation and into the next.

Kudos to Halle Berry on her John Wick debut — a dog lover, of course. While the Chapter 2 sequel didn’t feel as compelling as the original — a sacrifice made in trade for rapid world expansion ending in a cliffhanger — Parabellum doesn’t resolve John’s situation so much as complicate it. It’d be nice to see more story development other than changing loyalties and Teflon cameos, but the filmmakers appear reluctant to mess with their formula. In other words, don’t bother tallying the body count; his current clip may be empty, but Wick’s not out ammunition yet.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is rated R for pervasive strong violence, some language, and followed by more pervasive strong violence.

Three skull recommendation out of four

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