John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Director: Chad Stahelski.
Can John Wick’s universe get any bigger? The second chapter really embellished on the first, going further afield and killing more. But as I warned in my review of chapter 2., is it going too far and befall the same fate of a lot of decent actioners of forever trying to one-up the previous instalment and potentially overkilling the franchise?
John Wick has over stepped the line this time. Minor spoiler if you haven’t seen the previous films, but Wick has not only killed a high ranking member of the elusive high table, the criminal underworld’s management; but he’s done it on Continental grounds which is a big no-no within the Wick’s ever growing rule book.
So, he’s been banished, excommunicado, with a $14million bounty put on his head. All services and sanctuaries have been revoked and anyone who should assist Wick in his blight will have to face severe penalties themselves. So, the entire underworld is pitted against John Wick which some might say, makes the odds about even. But of course, there’s some get-out clause or loop hole that might just work in Wick’s favour, or the fact that it’s his turn to start calling some in.
This chapter certainly delves deeper into the mythology and regulation of John Wick’s world. Actually shedding more light on Wick’s history and heritage. And whilst a number familiar characters return, like McShane’s Winston, whose poetics almost makes the movie Shakespearean. We are introduced to others that come out of the confines of Wick’s world. Dillion’s rather stuck-up, matter-of-fact Adjudicator being one of them, who comes to the scene of the crime to investigate and prosecute anyone who has had a hand in the saga thus far; challenging the very authority and royalty of the underworld. Upsetting the balance of power furthermore. Anything comes at a price and every action has, often ruthless consequences.
The Adjudicator employs the services of the shinobi, Zero and his students to enact punishment on those guilty and to hunt down John Wick. Dacascos awkwardly plays Zero brilliantly, suiting his character perfectly looking like Chia-Hui Lui of the Shaolin Kung-Fu movies. He’s quite odd from time to time with these little moments of quirkiness like the homage to Robert Patrick’s T-1000 from T2: Judgement Day; whether that was intentional or not; and when he breaks character a little to express his personal admiration of Wick. Being a fan of Dacascos’ work such as Crying Freeman, Only The Strong and Brotherhood of the Wolf I was keen to see what he could offer here, and his talents were not wasted.
Wick seeks the help, or debt from his old friend, Sofia and her two obedient Malinois. Sofia, portrayed by Halle Berry, who does an amazing job of keeping up with Keanu, and shows that her intensive training pays off; proving to be quite the badass while the two of them tag team during a massacre in Casablanca. Houston plays her part as the Russian ballet director but it’s sadly Flynn’s master of coin character that didn’t quite fit right in, especially with that silly accent of his. And Taghmaoui’s character wasn’t imposing enough, but maybe that’s how he was meant to be portrayed, being quite inconspicuous.
What was a pleasant surprise to see was the addition of Raid stars Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman, who played lethal ninja sidekicks to Zero and was afforded one of the best fights in the movies. It was a nice touch to also have them honour their native tongue of Indonesian, and having their script being totally ad-libbed and translated later.
Talking of the action, that’s what we really love about John Wick movies. The superbly choreographed, long sequences and gunplay that really make John Wick stand out from other similar action movies. And chapter 3 really does want to do more. There’s horseback versus motorbikes, motorbikes versus motorbikes and a whole new meaning to bringing a knife to a gun fight. In fact the pistols take a back seat for a good portion of the film but don’t worry. There’s still plenty for the trigger happy. It’s all in the usual John Wick fashion, fast, precise, long takes and gruesome with no slow-mo here. But though it’s obviously well choreographed; the physical encounters are too slow and looked rehearsed and staged. It shouldn’t be that noticeable, but to keen fans of the genre, it really stands out, but thankfully this isn’t for all fighting and it doesn’t take much away from the overall enjoyment of the movie.
Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard provide the same themes as before which are now instantly recognisable as John Wick music. But outside of the classics, the film lacks any accompanying soundtracks. It’s always nice to hear Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but I’m not sure on the reworked version of Winter being a fitting piece. The sound editing is little off at times and the soundtrack is wasted, especially during a pivotal shoot out.
Thankfully, what does still work and impresses is the sets and lighting; still giving Wick that ultra-vibrant coolness in a seemingly dark world. The production and lighting departments certainly prove their worth here. It’s just a shame the sound and music editing has dropped from the bar. Though not evident throughout the movie, when the opulent sets are seen, they really do display extravagance and not in the conventional way, but by giving it that classic chic visual but in neon style.
Not sure where they are going to go with this, as there are hints of a conflict of character within Wick and Keanu has described this journey as a tale of two personalities, the character of John wanting to be left in peace, and John Wick, the only person who can delivery John that peace by fighting to the death. There’s certainly some questionable loyalties with fealty being a recurring theme. There’s ultimately a management restructure with a lot of power realigning leaving us to wondering what is going to follow. Does make you wonder if this is what the late Mrs. Helen Wick would have wanted for John.
In relation to the previous films, this is more like the sequel and actually feels a little more distance from the initial John Wick. This being the longest so far at 130 minutes, with the longest title too, adding the subheading “Parabellum” which is Latin for “prepare for war”. It doesn’t feel as slick as the previous in parts but with unexpected outcome, it’s intriguing to see what happens next. Who will return, who won’t make it to the already announced fifth chapter? I’m just hoping Chad and Keanu know there’s limits and do well to improve but not to overdo it and ruin a perfectly good trilogy so far.
Running Time: 7
The Cast: 8
Job Description: 8
Extra Bonus Points: 5 not for the action, that’s a given, but for the production design and lighting.