16th May2019

‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Anjelica Huston, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Jason Mantzoukas, Jerome Flynn, Robin Lord Taylor | Written by Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, Marc Abrams | Directed by Chad Stahelski


John Wick is back, and this time he’s bringing a subtitle. Parabellum is both a type of gun and Latin for “Prepare for war”, both of which set the tone nicely for this thrilling third instalment in the sharp-suited action franchise.

The action picks up exactly where Chapter 2 left off, with former assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) now a fugitive with a $14 million bounty on his head after killing someone on the premises of the Continental Hotel, the haven for hit-people run by Winston (Ian McShane). After fighting off hordes of attackers, John manages to call in a favour with gangster-slash-ballet instructor The Director (Anjelica Houston), who grants him safe passage to Casablanca, where he hopes to have his bounty rescinded by The Elder (Said Taghmaoui), a member of the all-powerful High Table.

Along the way, Wick receives help from former acquaintance Sofia (Halle Berry), who’s now the manager of the Casablanca branch of the Continental. Meanwhile, a High Table Adjudicator (Billions’ Asia Kate Dillon) arrives in Manhattan and demands punishment from both Winston and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) for their part in helping John Wick escape.

In a pleasing show of devotion to his own franchise, former stunt co-ordinator Chad Stahelski is once more back in the director’s chair and he duly delivers some of the best action sequences you’ll see all year, including a brilliantly staged opening battle in the New York Public Library (complete with shushing) and a truly sensational fight involving the throwing of multiple knives that really has to be seen to be believed. And that’s just in the opening ten minutes. Other highlights include John riding a horse through Manhattan while fending off a motorcycle gang and an extended battle in Casablanca where he gets help from Sofia’s remarkably well trained attack dogs.

On a similar note, the production design is utterly gorgeous, whether it’s the neon-drenched streets of New York, the stunning interiors of the Continental (including a few rooms that were obviously off-limits last time round) or the exteriors in the Casablanca section, including the instantly iconic shot of a still-fully-suited John walking through the Sahara Desert (admittedly, the film hand-waves the geography, but it’s hard to care when it looks this good). The Casablanca section also adds a welcome touch of the surreal, just in case the sight of Keanu Reeves galloping through New York hadn’t ticked that box hard enough already.

The performances are a delight in and of themselves. Reeves looks properly exhausted this time round (and who can blame him – a line of dialogue reminds us that the action of all three films has taken place over just a couple of weeks), which just makes his perpetually dogged demeanour that much harder to resist. Similarly, McShane and Fishburne liven up their roles with their respectively colourful line deliveries and there’s scene-stealing support from both Dillon and Dacascos, with the latter particularly good value as a sushi chef-slash-ninja assassin who hero worships John and keeps trying to get him to admit how similar they are.

In short, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a thoroughly entertaining action threequel that’s consistently inventive, mixing compellingly offbeat characters and thrillingly staged action sequences with an achingly cool sense of style. Bring on John Wick Chapter 4: Subtitle TBC.

**** 4/5

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is in cinemas now.


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