Being an assassin is tough enough without John Wick as your target. That’s a guaranteed loss. In John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum we find out just how much Wick wants to live when vengeance is not the driver. Keanu Reeves’s Wick is still the Baba Yaga of nightmares for his enemies, but now there is a $14 million bounty on his head. Though it’s not dissimilar to the previous films in the John Wick trilogy, it lacks some of the consistency of the first. When we root for Wick, we expect a level of ridiculousness that is met over and over, even allowing for humorous moments. It does not disappoint in that regard, but the story is too thin to justify the length.
John Wick is on the run, and things are bad enough that he must travel halfway across the world in order to potentially save himself. It is inevitable that Wick will die, someday, and that day seems to be coming. He lives in a state of hyperawareness, to the point that he finally begins to wear down. It’s not surprising, as all of the Wick films the place over the course of two or three weeks. At least 90 minutes of its 131 is pure action.
While Wick fights his way out of New York City, the assassin no-kill zone of the Continental Hotel becomes the center of the overarching plot. At the end of John Wick: Chapter 2, Wick killed someone inside, and that requires a reprimand from the international assassin leaders. An adjudicator is sent to investigate both the hotel owner and anyone who has given safe haven to Wick, resulting in many brutal deaths and mutilations.
The choreography is the real star in Parabellum, and we have to give kudos for Keanu Reeves for continuing to perform action scenes himself. If we consider how much work goes into creating fight sequences, it is amazing how unique each one is to the next. We get to see someone get beaten to death with a library book, and another set of people get into a very intense sharp object fight. There are also a of couple scenes featuring ballet dancers. There is so much motion in each scene, and plenty of details that warrant re-watch in slow motion.
Another shout needs to go out to the animal trainers for the film, because ex-assassin Sofia (Halle Berry) has dogs that are some of the coolest on film in years. They also wear dog armor, which is not at all conspicuous in a public space, and is super effective. Dogs are an integral aspect of Wick’s humanity, and some of the best moments in the film come from the authenticity of seeing him interact with them. Every dog here stole the scenes they were in, and I think every person in the film would agree.
It’s also important to remember that everywhere someone with a bounty goes, he is jeopardizing both himself and everyone around him. Why won’t John Wick just give himself up? What if he tried? When he’s asked what his motive is to live, he says, to remember. Remember what? Answer: His wife.
Here’s where things get less clear. His purpose is not to carry a legacy of his family or honor the memory of his wife and puppy, it’s to remember. Does she not have a family outside of John? One of his few actual possessions is a photograph of her. It’s a mystery to me why this would be said but not elaborated on further, as we’re on the third film. It didn’t take much for the audience to sympathize with him from the start of the first Wick, so I don’t think it’s too much to ask.
This is a film that isn’t much more than a series of cool fight sequences, but it would be nice if the emotional core that made watching the first Wick so refreshing to watch could’ve continued here. Even Avengers: Endgame balanced these elements. For such a big action flick, it would be nice to connect more with our hero, especially when the audience knows we’re all in it for the long haul. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum might actually play it too safe.