John Wick: Chapter 3­—Parabellum

Sensical nonsense in continuation of series


Courtesy of Niko Tavernise

Keanu Reeves as John Wick in “John Wick Chapter 3 — Parabellum.”

There is a scene early on in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” that acts as an anecdotal personification of John Wick (Keanu Reeves) in a perfect way: Wick’s trusted criminal doctor patches him up, with the doctor insisting that Wick shoot him not only once, but twice, because no one believes that Wick leaves any room without spilling blood. The best part is this is one of the quieter moments in a cinematic amusement ride that is about as self-aware as it needs to be. “Parabellum” succeeds at being not only a great successor to the idiosyncratic chaos of “John Wick: Chapter 2,” but putting extended clips on the glocks to make for more violence, more bloodshed and yes, more dogs.

As it should, “Parabellum” begins right where the second film left off, with John Wick’s international bounty reaching a staggering $14 million, making every environment a jungle gym of savagery at the hands of John Wick, who we may as well just refer to as Keanu Reeves at this point. Reeves’s portrayal of the blood-hungry “retired” killer is as blunt and meta as the cheesy dialogue sees fit, with Reeves becoming somewhat of a culture icon since the first film’s release back in 2014. Wick is labeled in the killer community as being “excommunicato,” which refers to the religious condemnation of a sinful figure. This is one of many surprising religious symbols and references, suggesting a sacredness and dedication to the seemingly senseless violence in Wick’s day-to-day life.

Any more of a plot summary than this would be gratuitous, with the cognizant performances, engaging production design, dreamy cinematography, and sheer creative ruthlessness taking center stage. The more plot-heavy scenes are unfortunately integral and necessary so that action-packed scenes can deliver the eye-popping entertainment that they do, but sadly drag the film’s run-time beyond what is requisite. While, yes, these slow moments are necessary, with other action films like the “Transformers” series forgetting that constant noise and explosions becomes pure white noise to the audience, the script gives us little to care about. Let’s be honest: If you’ve made it to the third installment of this series, you’re here for the expertly choreographed action and contextually sensical nonsense, not the monotonous story.

Thankfully, there is so much more to appreciate here from a production viewpoint. Oscar-nominated cinematographer Dan Lausten makes every bright, colorful light pop as brightly as the blood runs red. While the cinematography is easily one of the standouts of the strictly cinematic side of the film, mostly everything else is serviceable, but not necessarily outstanding, which didn’t diminish my experience but sometimes left me itching for more during the film’s calmer moments.

A certain suspension of disbelief is not only recommended, but deeply intrinsic to enjoying a film of such bizarre stakes like “Parabellum.” At this point, Marvel should just buy the rights to the character of John Wick, because he has the wits and talent of all the Avengers combined. The problem is, Wick fits into no other universe but his own, with fights occuring in train stations, libraries and hotel lobbies as people pass by these fights as if it is commonplace. This is a very minute directing decision that immensely pays off.his self-aware universe is all about John Wick, with his ominous nickname “The Boogeyman” taking form as the blink of an eye could end up being the cause of your demise, a demise at the hands of John Wick.

Courtesy of Niko Tavernise
Halle Barry as Sofia in “John Wick Chapter 3 — Parabellum.”

It is so fulfilling to see a third installment of a respected action series define and execute its unique style so well, with the use of experimental subtitles, thwacking sound design and hilarious dramatic irony acting as three ostensibly random ingredients that, when mixed together with the right amount of flare, make for a delicious blend of all things fun, loud and down-right riotous. The use of subtitles to truly let you know when dialogue is meaningful may seem pandering, but the film’s dedication to being so unconventional makes this creative decision all the more amusing. I couldn’t help but crack a smile during these “important” moments signified by these subtitles that act more as subheads than anything else.

Sound design is usually a feature of a film that goes unnoticed, but that is thankfully not the case here, because the violence is choreographed both visually and sonically. This makes every punch, every gunshot, and every explosive death as gruesome as they can be.

The dramatic irony is yet another factor that will most likely go unnoticed by most audiences; it is just intrinsically a part of Wick’s godlike presence in this distorted universe. Characters fight John Wick because they know how legendary he is, knowing well that they will most likely not make it out alive but dying fulfilled knowing it was by the means of John Wick’s revenge.

There are moments of intense violence that are abruptly halted by a scene of playful dialogue banter, with another one of the series’ staples being the seamless interweaving of comedy and action to create a consistent tone that never feels disturbing or lighthearted. One of the film’s central villains is so dedicated to killing Wick that he comes off as a fanboy meeting his favorite celebrity, which plays perfectly with the tone that the film breathes so effortlessly.

Courtesy of Niko Tavernise
Keanu Reeves as John Wick in “John Wick Chapter 3 — Parabellum.”

No one blinks an eye when they fight John Wick in “Parabellum,” and if they do, they better have their will already written out. “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” is such a fun time at the movies that you would be doing yourself a disservice missing out — that is, if you are as into an obscene amount of violent destruction as I am. I found myself enjoying the crowd’s reactions as much as I enjoyed the madness on screen, making this a necessary Friday night viewing at the movies. With the right mix of well-executed choreography, directing, cinematography, sound design and unadulterated self-awareness, “Parabellum” is about as good of a successor to “Chapter 2” as one could expect, despite some of the film’s slower moments that dwell on a plot that no one really cares about. If you’re buying your tickets to see Wick do what he does best, you’re in for a relentlessly good time.