John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Keanu Reeves returns with another John Wick action spectacle that'll leaves you as breathless as the indefatigable protagonist

Film Review by Jamie Dunn | 17 May 2019
  • John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Film title: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Director: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Angelica Huston, Ian McShane, Halle Berry
Release date: 15 May
Certificate: 18

John Wick, the dog-loving super-assassin at the heart of this ridiculous (and ridiculously entertaining) action franchise, must be exhausted. Five years have passed for audiences since John (played by Keanu Reeves) went on a murderous rampage in the first movie after a gang of Russian gangsters made the worst mistake of their lives by killing the laconic hitman's beagle puppy. For our protagonist, though, it's not even been a week. For Chapter 3, he hasn't been able to take a breath, as the film begins at the very moment Chapter 2 ended: with John battered and bruised and on the run with a $14 million mark on his head and every assassin in the city on his tail.

The plot of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is basically identical to the first two films; namely, John kills a lot of people. If that suggests something repetitive then you haven't seen a John Wick film. Director Chad Stahelski, Reeves’ longtime stunt double and fight coordinator since The Matrix days, hasn't run out of ways for his leading man to off his enemies; far from it. In the first film, a mob boss recalls that he once saw John Wick kill three men in a bar with only a pencil. If anything, his weapons of choice have only gotten more creative. This time around John's tools of retribution include his belt, the back end of a horse and a book of Russian fairy tales, the latter of which is used to dispatch a literal giant.

In addition to the inventively deployed violence and balletic action filmmaking (a knife fight in an antique-weapon shop in Chinatown sets the film's high watermark), the chief reason to adore this franchise is Reeves very specific brand of movie stardom. He's an economical actor, sanguine and deadpan. His exterior doesn't suggest he finds any pleasure in stabbing an adversary in the eyeball or repeatedly kicking another in the testicles, which helps tamper any of the vicarious pleasure you might feel towards his actions. Reeves' character's revenge never feels as ugly as, say, the actions of the protagonist in a Clint Eastwood or a Liam Neeson movie. You want John to kill his next target not to sate a bloodlust, but because you simply want to see him (and by extension, Reeves) make it through the night.

There are plenty of pleasures to be found outside of Reeves' zen charisma. Ian McShane is back as the twinkly manager of the Continental, the Manhattan hotel where assassins are forbidden from raising their weapons in anger, and makes up for our hero's few words by delivering the film's chewiest dialogue. We also delve further into the pleasantly dense mythos of the Wickiverse, which takes us to Angelica Huston's baroque ballet school and to Morocco, where we meet the mysterious head of The High Table, the shady organisation who've been pulling the strings for the last two movies. There's also a delightful digression in which John travels to meet an old friend played by Halle Berry, who's an even bigger dog-lover than he is.

Even more so than its predecessors, Chapter 3 is relentless, only letting up for a few seconds to let you laugh at the absurdity and invention of its latest piece of ultraviolence. Like its protagonist, you'll end the movie breathless and exhausted, but in the best possible way.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is released by Lionsgate