John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum (2019)
Directed by Chad Stahelski
Director Chad Stahelski confirmed that “Parabellum” is the deadliest chapter in the “John Wick” saga so far. But if we have to stick around for the bloodless in-between scenes, is the third chapter worth watching?
For the sake of simplicity, I’ll try to keep this short (but watch the previous “John Wick” movies again just to refresh your memory, because this one is steeped in the mythology). Now that John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is excommunicado, he has a whole world full of assassins looking to cash in on the $15 million-dollar bounty on his head. If that wasn’t enough (and I contend it could have been, if they had just done a simple “Escape from New York”-style thing), an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) has arrived to serve ominous notices to Wick’s allies, including the Continental’s manager Winston (Ian McShane) and the pigeon-training Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne). With help from an old friend (Halle Berry) and her weaponized dogs, Wick will have to fight for his life while he figures out a plan to escape the High Table’s clutches for good.
Early on, just after John Wick’s grace period has ended and an entire city has converged to kill him, we see an extended fight scene that ends in innumerable deaths. Typical John Wick stuff. The audience cheered after the last baddie was finished off. We all missed that John Wick action. But this scene felt different to me. The choreography wasn’t as clean or precise as I remember. In the first “John Wick” movie, Wick shot less than two bullets for each kill he had. In “Chapter 2,” he got a little sloppier—it took 2.35 bullets for each kill. I wouldn’t be surprised if “Chapter 3” saw that number above 2.5. Known for his precision, Wick instead chooses to draw out his fight scenes a little more with each movie, and instead of headshots (in the first two movies, about 33% of his bullets went into heads) he favors torturous body shots that give us more blood and more chances to cringe. He also, to my chagrin, took a lot of cheap groin shots this time around—with his gun, with his hands, with his feet, with a book. I’m not sure if this was for laughs, but I take my John Wick action very seriously (half kidding, but really, it seemed like an unnecessary amount). Still, that long fight sequence early on is better than almost every fight scene I’ve seen since the last “John Wick” movie…but it pales in comparison to a fight scene that comes just a half-hour or so later, when Halle Berry and her phenomenally trained Malinois dogs show up. I would suggest seeing “Parabellum” in theaters just for the scene in which the four of them—Reeves, Berry, and those dogs—take out dozens and dozens of assassins by more and more epic means.
But as much as I would have liked it, “Parabellum” isn’t just 130 minutes of John Wick killing people. In between, the four screenwriters try their darndest to build our interest in the ever-growing mythology of the High Table, the assassin community’s ruling body. In the first movie, the late Michael Nyqvist’s villain was fleshed-out and interesting, and his tales of Baba Yaga pumped audiences up for the action to come. Here, though, I just wasn’t interested. At this point, we don’t need more story. At least, I don’t. Just give me more fight scenes. I know that’s not a fair ask, but I’m still going to ask it. When all is said, though, the third chapter in the franchise that reinvigorated the pure action movie has just enough adrenaline-pumping, applause-worthy action to make it worth your investment.