John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
"Evan Schiff's editing is probably the best seen in any film of the past year, and Dan Laustsen's cinematography allows director Chad Stahelski to explore noirish landscapes without sacrificing the high energy vibe."

"Si vis pacem, para bellum," goes the old Latin adage - "If you want peace, prepare for war." It's an odd choice of title for this third instalment in the John Wick franchise because the war has started before the film has even begun and it never stops. This is a film that affords very few opportunities for catching one's breath.

Loping through the rain in the battered remains of a suit that might once have sufficed for mid-level dinner parties of the sort international assassins attend on their weekends off, Wick knows he's in trouble. You'll need to have seen the previous films for a full explanation, but suffice to say that he's broke the rules of the International Assassins' Guild and as a consequence it's about to be open season on him, with a hefty bounty for the person who takes him down. He barely has chance to drop off his dog at the hotel where it all went wrong before he's caught up in his first fight. And so the film progresses, moving swiftly from one brilliantly choreographed violent encounter to the next.

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There's very little plot. This is probably a good thing, since what we do get manages to be shallow and confused at the same time. The characters are paper thin but a selection of great actors - even in minor roles - means they're still satisfying to watch, and whilst Reeves himself may not contribute much in that department, his skills as a fighter make him a compelling lead. He's too tall to be naturally advantaged at the type of fighting he's doing but he makes up for it with astonishing speed and agility, and the fight choreography is simply stunning, providing the perfect showcase. Endlessly inventive, it's built around genuinely smart tactics (too often sacrificed in films to make display easier) and makes an investment in realism (guns have to be reloaded, people get winded etc.) that really pays off, giving the most spectacular sequences a believability that keeps them meaningful. There's some really impressive animal training work involved too, with two excellent stunt dogs joining the action in the film's most striking skirmish.

Evan Schiff's editing is probably the best seen in any film of the past year, and Dan Laustsen's cinematography, heavily influenced by the work of Roger Deakins, allows director Chad Stahelski to explore noirish landscapes without sacrificing the high energy vibe. The result is a sort of techno-Bond atmosphere well suited to the surreal setting in which any minor character could be an arch-villain and even the most remote spots on Earth offer no hiding places. One might imagine that the result would be exhausting, the blood-soaked equivalent of television aimed at three-year-olds, but in fact it does a good job of remaining watchable for over two hours - something for which Stahelski deserves no small degree of credit, especially as, fights aside, next to nothing actually happens.

This is strictly a film for action fans. It has very little else to offer, but that doesn't much matter, because it's very good at what it does. if there's one real weaknesss here, it's that newcomers don't get the chance to get to know Wick, so won't have much reason to root for him beyond that vaguely sympathetic hangdog look that Reeves has somehow made work for him ever since his early days as Ted 'Theodore' Logan. The fights will still thrill, however, with enough of a comic edge to keep the silliness of the whole enterprise in perspective, so be prepared for a great ride.

Reviewed on: 03 Jan 2020
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John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum packshot
John Wick is on the run after killing a member of the international assassins' guild, and with a $14 million price tag on his head, he is the target of professional killers everywhere.

Director: Chad Stahelski

Writer: Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Asia Kate Dillon, Mark Dacascos, Anjelica Huston, Robin Lord Taylor, Saïd Taghmaoui

Year: 2019

Runtime: 131 minutes

Country: US


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