By: Hawk Ripjaw (A Toast) –
I really wanted to review John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum. And when I set my sights on something, I will do whatever it takes to achieve it. So earlier in the month, I went nuclear and volunteered to review UglyDolls in exchange for also getting John Wick 3. It was worth it…kind of.
It is Fuck Shit Up O’Clock again, and once more, John Wick is wearing all of the watches.
John Wick’s enemies come in two varieties:
1) “Oh crap, it’s John Wick!”
2) “I’m not afraid of John Wick because I’m a fucking dumbass.”
John Wick Chapter 3 picks up directly at the conclusion of Chapter 2, with John (Keanu Reeves) having broken a cardinal rule of the Continental Hotel and killed another member, Santino D’Antonio, within its walls. While Continental manager Winston (Ian McShane) agrees that Santino was a card-carrying asshole who kind of deserved it for fucking with Wick, he has no choice but to remove Wick’s access to Continental resources and excommunicate him from the underworld of assassins. The murder has also put a massive price on Wick’s head, but Winston gracefully gives him a one-hour head start before the contract posts.
What follows is two hours of what I call Bad Guy Hubris, where a whooooooooooole mess of bad guys foolishly assume that they can kill John Wick, and are very painfully proven wrong.
In response to this, the High Table, the executives of this underworld, send The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) to punish those responsible for helping Wick. First the Adjudicator visits Winston, admonishes him for the hour head start he gave to Wick, and tells him that he will be dethroned from his leadership of the Continental in seven days. Next, they go to The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) with the same sentence for providing Wick with the weapon used to kill D’Antonio. Finally, they recruit Zero (Mark Dacascos) and his assassins, who are overjoyed at the idea of hunting down the legendary John Wick.
Wick, meanwhile, continues to cash in on favors from other people from his past, including Sofia (Halle Berry), another assassin with a team of very good dogs with very sharp teeth, and a woman known as The Director (Anjelica Huston).
“Parabellum” means “Prepare for War,” And John Wick is fucking prepared.
In the third entry, the John Wick franchise has upped the ante again. Within the opening minutes it puts the “holy shit” factor through the fucking ceiling. With the resources of the Continental no longer at his disposal, Wick immediately has to improvise, and one of the first things he does is disassemble a revolver and reassemble it with different parts to fit a specific bullet. He does this while enemies are just a couple of doors away. This is one of the things that make the franchise work: John is an impossibly badass character, but he’s also human and vulnerable. As the movie progresses, his fighting style becomes a bit more scrappy and grapple-based as he’s worn down, but he’s still a killing machine that is consistently able to improvise against his foes.
There was an interview with director Chad Stahelski in which is stated that the method he and his stunt coordinators use to design fight sequences is to go to different locations and essentially play some kind of fucked up version of Mad Libs where they ask, “What if John Wick killed (this guy) with an (object) in (this location)?” Guns, books, and even horses become implements of death during John’s warpath.
The action is by far the best in the series so far, with one of the standouts of any action flick in recent memory being a massive brawl in a room full of antique knives and other weapons. Wick faces off against a handful of thugs (some or all of them being veterans of the stunt industry in real life) throwing and catching knives back and forth, brawling with larger blades, and inflicting very painful-looking kills. It bears mentioning that this is by far the most violent Wick movie so far, with many of the gnarliest moments eliciting verbal responses from the audience. The rest of the action is still genre-topping material and is consistently thrilling and fun.
And it all looks just fantastic: Kevin Kavanaugh’s production design samples both seediness and glamour, and every single setting and setpiece is vibrant, colorful, and bursting with personality. Every location looks different from the rest, and feels in tune with the wild creativity of the character design. Dan Lausten’s cinematography is some of the best in the genre, his camera pulling off some incredibly impressive framing and movement with clear action photography that serves as a reminder of just how poorly action is often done in Hollywood action movies. Everything is so cleanly shot, the movie almost feels like it’s bragging by the time it stages a fight sequence between three men with dark hair and black suits and you can still tell exactly who is who.
It stacks and releases adrenaline at a ridiculous pace, setting up and paying off so quickly it turns into an endorphin rush. Just like the last two, I wanted to run a mile and fight something immediately after getting out of the movie with the level of pure adrenaline it ran on.
The franchise features some of the cleanest and most economical world-building of modern franchises, and ups the ante for this entry. The main currency of the assassin world is gold coins, because it just is. The hierarchy of the High Table and the politics of this organization don’t get explained through a series of monologues; it just is. We learn more about the underworld organically, and the scope expands and becomes more flavorful through the progression of the plot. It’s consistently surprising and unpredictable, and it never feels like its going out of its way to make its plot work.
Chapter 3 is the biggest John Wick movie yet, continuing to expand the world of assassins and increasing the stakes even higher than before. It’s more exciting, more violent, and funnier than its predecessors. With how wild and elaborate John Wick world is getting, there is a bit of trepidation that it could get out of hand was the writers continue to stack ideas and elements. Yet, all three of these movies are so confident in what they’re doing; it’s easy to trust they know where’s they’re going. But even if they don’t, when it’s this fun, will it even matter when (or even if) it gets too out of control? As an exercise in action filmmaking as well as storytelling wish fulfillment, John Wick is king.
John Wick: Chapter 3–Parabellum (2019) Movie Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every headshot. Naw, just joking. Seriously, don’t do that. I already have enough blood on my hands.
Take a Drink: for every crotch that gets destroyed (them dogs love them some bad guy crotch).
Take a Drink: every time someone says John Wick’s name.
Do a Shot: for every new wrinkle introduced to the Wick universe.
Toast Your Drink: when the villains from The Raid movies show up.