RELEASED: May 17th 2019
DISTRIBUTED BY: Lionsgate
DIRECTED BY: Chad Stahelski
WRITTEN BY: Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins & Marc Abrams
PRODUCED BY: Basil Iwanyk & Erica Lee
MUSIC BY: Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard
STARRING: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston, Saïd Taghmaoui, Jerome Flynn, Randall Duk Kim, Margaret Daly, Robin Lord Taylor & Jason Mantzoukas
Despite watching both the other installments in time for Parabellum‘s release, I never actually got round to watching the third part of the John Wick saga. But finally, here we are. Better late than never.
Parabellum picks up where John Wick Chapter 2 left off, with John cast out from his world of assassins, and a price on his head so big that every hired killer in the world is now gunning for him. With little in the way of options, John calls in all his favours to find a way to remove the bounty on his head and get out of the game once more.
As is to be expected from a John Wick movie, this film is packed with great action sequences and excellent choreography. It’s smooth, brutal, and exhilarating in a way that highlights how they’re able to keep making films in this series despite the fact it’s somewhat lacking in the story department (because let’s be honest, they are):
- Chapter 1: Iosef kills someone he shouldn’t, John comes after him, kills everyone
- Chapter 2: John kills someone he shouldn’t, everyone comes after him, he kills everyone
- Chapter 3: John kills someone he shouldn’t, everyone comes after him, he kills everyone
- Chapter 4: John will probably, once again, kill everyone
The script itself is filled with macho talk and cliches, with the main work presumably being put into expanding the mythology of the strange league of assassins John continuously finds himself under the thumb of (each assassin works for the leader of a district, who works for a ‘High Table’ of Assassins, who in turn work for some guy in the desert who can’t be found?), something made increasingly more obvious by the actors, many of whom are clearly at very different skill levels, and seem to be in different movies, half the time. It’s definitely a film that is supported by the actor’s physical talents, over their creative ones.
But of course, no one is really watching John Wick for a strong story.
So Parabellum ends up delivering only in the ways it needs to. With strong choreography, great editing, and a stunning look. The way that Director of Photography Dan Laustsen plays with light and colour is excellent, and really make this action film stand out amongst its generally drab-looking peers.
Chad Stahelski again proves to be a formidable action director, and I’m excited to see what sort of things he’ll move onto once he’s done with John Wick, especially when gifted a deeper script.
Similarly, some of the cast give great performances when not hampered by weird dialogue choices, with Halle Berry being perhaps the standout. She has the most down-to-Earth dialogue out of the characters, not randomly shouting things out because the writers thought ‘that would sound cool’, despite it not really fitting, and her action sequences are great, allowing Stahelski to experiment with a bit of variety, like having Wick and Berry’s character Sofia fighting alongside her pet attack dogs.
Overall, Parabellum is a decent film for what it is, but at times it does strain believability a lot more than its predecessors, and a lot of it seems like it’s mainly set-up for the fourth outing. Perhaps when I get the chance to watch the whole, complete series my opinion of it will be as high as everyone else’s, but for now, I still can’t forget the time when I rewatched the original John Wick with my girlfriend and she started pointing out all its fairly obvious flaws, which I had been blind to because of how ‘cool’ and ‘exciting’ the movie is.
Without giving in to those descriptors though, the series doesn’t hold up to criticism quite as well. But it’s still a fun watch, and so I’ll give it:
Chapter 2 is still the best.