Review: John Wick 3 – Parabellum joins the action movie hall of fame

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The John Wick series has always been a pleasant surprise to me. Keanu Reeves pretty much fell to the wayside after the Matrix films, so to have him resurface in a small-time action movie about a man getting revenge for his fallen puppy… that was a pretty far-out concept for anyone to take seriously.

On the other hand, the movies never expected you to take them seriously in the first place. They’re unapologetic Hollywood adventures, each instalment taking the action to greater heights, with just the barest amount of story to justify our protagonist’s actions. Those actions being slaying everyone who gets in his way, of course.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is no different. This is an adrenaline-fueled, no-holds-barred tale of Wick beating the odds. The entire world, quite literally, is against him. Every corner houses a new threat, every street a new enemy, all trying to collect the 14 million-dollar bounty on his head. He might as well have a pink neon sign above his head reading ‘KILL ME’ in Comic Sans.

When we last saw Wick in Chapter 2, he had an hour-long headstart before his bounty pulled every assassin out of the woodwork.

Declared excommunicado from the Continental Hotel and the High Table organisation, he has no place left to hide and no shadowy guild to protect him. He’s all alone, with no supplies, no friends and no means of escape. And as one character puts it: “I’d say the odds are about even.”

Everything this movie tries to do, it accomplishes astonishingly well. Every action sequence is so creatively and brutally executed that my jaw hit the floor not once or even twice, but pretty much every five minutes. My heart wouldn’t stop racing in the back-and-forth fights between Wick and his assailants, but what really gets me is how good the shots and choreography are. It’s something I’m very much not used to in a typical action movie.

Simply thinking back to the very first kill in Parabellum gives me the urge to buy a ticket and watch the movie again. I won’t spoil anything, but that scene involved a book and ended with my cinema applauding. I’m not even joking – it was brilliant! And I can think of maybe 5 action sequences that are even more deserving of applause! That just says so much about how entertaining this movie is.

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I love Parabellum’s use of colours. Each shot is packed with so much vibrancy in what could’ve easily been a dark and gritty film. We’ve seen plenty of action flicks with brawls in some abandoned warehouse in the middle of nowhere, which really undersells the power of the visual medium. However, this movie features a fight in a glass house of mirrors with sculptures, all while abstract art on a giant screen throws bright colours everywhere. It’s so much more fun to watch, and it reminds me of Reeve’s many set-piece moments from the Matrix trilogy.

You’ll see actors pulling off crazy, brutal moves, outwitting and outplaying each other at every turn in these brilliant environments. There are throwing knives and attack dogs, gunfights atop horses, sword fights atop motorcycles, and more. So much more. No action scene is the same as the last; Parabellum strives for creativity and succeeds memorably.

The story, however, I have an issue with. I feel it could have been a little bigger in scope, which is admittedly a very small knock against this movie. Chapter 2 was building up to a bigger, all-out fight between Wick and the High Table, and Parabellum simply continues to work off that. Payoff hasn’t come, but the ending promises it will.

There is more John Wick to come, certainly. If you had asked me if this series would last after the second film, I would’ve had my doubts – I was worried that it wouldn’t have any room to grow. Now, I’m content to bide my time, waiting for the next inevitably great instalment in what has become one of the finest action movie franchises of all time.

[P.S. There’s a John Wick game on the way!]

Movie Rating: 9/10

Images: Summit Entertainment

Tim Augustin

Tim loves all sorts of things. Movies, TV shows, video games, comic books, cats and all that good stuff. What doesn't he love, you might ask? Minestrone soup. It is truly awful.