While the epic of John Wick’s misery induced by the pursuit of revenge continues to move at full speed in the same no-nonsense capacity that it had begun with in 2014, "Parabellum" manages to up the ante in ways that secure a fairly unique identity for the franchise beyond its homage to John Woo-esque gun-fu shoot em' up action flicks and man-on-a-mission revenge movies.
Reprised by Keanu Reeves, the titular assassin finds himself struggling to stay alive amongst his society of contract killers, following his excommunication for killing within the neutral grounds of The Contintental Hotel, overseen by shrewd and wise businessman Winston (Ian McShane) and his faithful concierge, Charon (Lance Reddick).
After a chance meeting with the heads of the hitman society, Wick earns a shot at redemption with a target assignment forcing him to question whether or not he truly wants to live as the dehumanized monster and boogieman of his reputation or if it's preferable to simply die and release himself from the pain of his profession, if not for his own slipping peace of mind, than to honor the nobility of his late wife. Reeves continues to bring his A-game to the role of Wick, assisted by the practical stunt work that he’s performed himself to really sell the notion of Wick as a murderous force of nature once the action gets underway. He also manages to subtly tell the story of a man who may only be fighting at this point because it's all he really knows.
"John Wick: Chapter 3," like its preceding entries, is ultimately about its action first and foremost. While the plot remains serviceable only as a means to move from set piece to set piece, the set pieces in question aren't just gloriously crafted but downright artistic. Between the variety of firearms and melee weapons on display, the brutality of every landed blow, and sound design that somehow manages to ensure that activity is always occurring this franchise continues to host some of the best direction of its genre. Where "Parabellum," manages to transcend its shallow nature is the way its choreography almost seems to carry a flow, communicating comedic, intimidating, and tragic sense of emotion in an almost theatrical capacity.
Perhaps I'm looking a bit too deeply into the notion of action choreography servicing storytelling in a manner akin to dance for stage musicals or operas. I also don't believe for a second that it's a coincidence that two substantial turning points involving Wick's character and the direction of the narrative are juxtaposed to disciplined ballerinas in training, gruesomely punishing their bodies to perform in the traditionally beautiful costuming and attire of the artform.
The usual top tier degree of pulse pounding action that the "John Wick" franchise promises is delivered in spades. "Parabellum" is never boring for a second across its 2 hour and 10 minute length, but the beauty put into its choreography to achieve an effect of secondary storytelling that goes beyond the dialogue written on the page takes the franchise above and beyond to a new level it didn't need to reach for but is all the better for having achieved.
"Chapter 3" is one of those rare sequels that doesn't simply honor its predecessors but actively enhances them while setting the stage for yet another sequel that actually feels wholly earned.
4 out of 5 stars
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.