Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.
The original John Wick film from 2014 was a pretty straight-forward revenge story: Man gets puppy from deceased wife, puppy gets murdered, man goes on a murder spree to avenge puppy. The movie briefly introduced us to an interconnected network of assassins, which was greatly expanded upon in the 2017 sequel. That movie ended with John Wick being named “excommunicado,” meaning that he is no longer under the protection of the organization and every other assassin will be gunning for him. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum picks up right where that movie left off, and continues to expand the underworld of the John Wick universe.
When he was declared excommunicado for shedding blood on company ground, John Wick was given an hour grace period to try to get out of town. Parabellum picks up about ten minutes into that grace period as Wick and his new dog search for an exit. The dog is free to return to the Continental Hotel, the home base of the assassin network in New York City, but John’s only escape is to call in an old marker and escape the country to Casablanca, Morocco. There he meets up with an old friend played by Halle Berry, who reluctantly agrees to help John seek out “The Elder,” the man who sits at the head of the “high table” and is the only one who might be able to help him find absolution.
Meanwhile, back in New York City, an adjudicator is seeking out anyone who offered assistance to John in order to dish out their particular punishment. That includes Continental manager Winston, who gave Wick the hour grace period, and the Bowery King, who gave John the gun he used to commit the act that instantly made him persona non grata within the organization. To say more about the plot would be a disservice, but suffice to say that John eventually returns to the Big Apple and kills a lot of people.
John Wick is an interesting franchise in that each of its three chapters released to date all take place over a very small window of time. With this movie picking up right where the last one left off, the entire saga takes place over a period of about two weeks. Keeping that in mind really adds a different perspective to a franchise that that has no qualms with killing many, many people. It is pretty insane when you think about it, but much like the Fast and the Furious franchise, the John Wick franchise is buying into the craziness one hundred percent. It even has Keanu Reeves quoting one of his own famous lines from The Matrix: “Guns… lots of guns.”
The action scenes continue to get more extravagant as the franchise goes along and they play very much like video game set pieces. As John progresses through the movie, the enemies continue to get tougher and tougher, with him often having to find a different way to take out a new enemy due to some kind of upgrade in their defense—such as the enemies fully covered in bulletproof armor that John faces once he is back in New York. But he also gets to play some multiplayer co-op at times, getting aid from Halle Berry’s Sofia, her vicious attack dogs (nice to see the canines finally getting some revenge of their own in this franchise), and even the concierge of the Continental.
As has become a staple of this franchise, the visuals are breathtaking. The filmmakers take advantage of some gloriously ornate sets, such as a beautiful ballet theater, giant vaults, and glass offices to punctuate the action with amazement. The movie also goes to the African desert, adding a Lawrence of Arabia feel to the proceedings. It pays attention to the smaller details, too, in the way a sword etches its mark into a sheet of glass or how bullets travel in water.
Along with the visuals, the fight choreography is the highlight of the show. Director Chad Stahelski is a former stuntman—he worked with Keanu on all the Matrix films—and what he is able to pull off in the action scenes is truly remarkable. There are knives-only fight scenes, gun-only fight scenes, duels with swords, motorcycle chases, car crashes, and even some horses get in on the action in the middle of New York City. All are separately interesting and mind-blowing in their complexity, but sometimes the action within a single scene can start to feel somewhat repetitive; after all, there are only so many times you can watch someone get shot three times in the head.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum continues to expand the larger world of the assassination network that was hinted at in the first film and it does so with style. The movie’s ultra-violence will not be for everyone, but if you have already made it this far with the franchise, it is a cinch that you will not be disappointed by its third chapter.
Parabellum opens today at the AMC Southcenter 16, the AMC Kent Station 14, the Century Federal Way, and Regal’s Stadium Landing 14 in Renton.