Film Review – John Wick 3: Parabellum (2019)

Well, he thinks he’s back and judging by the carnage and mayhem that has transpired since that fateful day in the first John Wick that pulled him back in, we are obliged to agree. But wait for it, for you haven’t seen anything yet for part three of the series – sub-titled Parabellum, the Latin for “prepare for war” – takes it out of the stratosphere and into another dimension entirely and brings us one of the most impressive action films we have seen this side of the new millenium. In fact, that might be faint praise: this is one of the best action films we have ever seen and indeed one of cinema’s most electrifying franchises.

After his actions in Part Two – which finished mere minutes before three begins – Wick is now a marked man, now declared “ex communicado” with a $14million bounty on his head after killing High Table member Santino D’Antonio at the Continental, the shady hotel where underworld goings on are forbidden. Given an hour’s head start before his bounty goes live by Winston (Ian McShane), Wick manages to wrestle his way to The Director (a welcome apperance from Angelica Huston) who grants him passage out of America to Casablanca and a reunion with Sofia (Halle Berry) who still owes him from a marker they previously had. His aim: to meet one of the Elders of the High Table to remove the bounty of his head.
Guns? Check (lots of them). Samurai swords? Check. Pulsating neon light show? Check. Riding horses through the city streets? Double and triple check. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg with Parabellum, a kaleidoscopic, frenetic, beautiful whirlwind of a film that just keeps topping itself, like a Jenga board piled high with the fear of it smashing back to Earth with a bang, only it doesn’t buckle under such pressure, instead basking in it and using it to go bigger and better every step of the way. You may well be expecting much of what has gone before, be it the shootouts, fist fights and chases, but director Stahelski and his team have found a way to both raise the stakes and lift the action set-pieces beyond anything you could possibly fathom with the breathless artistry of a classic musical and unrelenting spectacle of the best in action cinema.

Reeves, meanwhile, continues his one-man odyssey to BE John Wick, getting his hands dirty by doing as may of the stunts and fight sequences as he can and that’s exactly what separates Wick from other action films in that you can feel every punch, every kick, every shot even more because for the most part it’s Reeves front and centre, revelling in the both the beauty and brutality that the film oozes in spades. Add to the mix a superb turn from Halle Berry who more than stands up to the challenge, as well as the usual sprinkling of true class from McShane, Fishburne and Mark Dacascos, and the treats just keep on coming.

Sure, it’s over bloated runtime does catch up to it come the final act when a few of the set pieces feel just a little stale and the story runs its course before revving up again for one last ride, but this isn’t about the inner workings – this is all about the ride, so hold onto to your butts: Parabellum is coming…

Scott J.Davis | ★★★ ★1/2

Action, Thriller | USA, 2019 | 15 | 15th May 2019 (UK) | Lionsgate Films | Dir.Chad Stahelski | Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos,Jason Mantzoukas, Anjelica Huston,Ian McShane

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