John Wick 3: Parabellum

Review: John Wick 3: Parabellum

29 May 19

The first act alone is worth the price of admission

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum. That title alone is a mouthful, and it's a pretty reasonable example of what to expect from the film. You get your John Wick, but you get a lot more along with it, and whether that is a good or bad thing will be a polarizing talking point.

The film starts off incredibly strongly. Taking place near enough immediately after the previous film John Wick: Chapter 2, we watch as Wick makes the most of his final moments before he gets excommunicated and every single assassin comes after the bounty on his head. There is certainly very minimal setup, so it's imperative that you have seen the prior two films. The previous storylines are hinted at and mentioned throughout the film, but not necessarily in the first act.

The first 30 minutes of the film provides everything that we have come to love about the John Wick franchise; creative and tight fight choreography, a lot of head shots, and all shot with some pretty steady camera shots. Admittedly, there is a fair amount of quick edits to make some scenes look a little more exciting, but in general, the film has some genuinely well-directed fights. Almost reaching hyperviolence at times, you will find yourself physically wincing and audibly gasping at times as the speed and location of the strikes, combined with the sheer volume of the sound effects creates incredibly immersive moments.

They must have had a sale on panes of glass. That's all I'll say about that.

The immersive style works brilliantly thanks to some imaginative cinematography and set design, with some environments almost coming across like a shooter videogame, though much to my disdain, the sets started to lose clarity as the film progressed, spending more time in dark and murky areas.

The one aspect that has remained constant through the Wick franchise, is the importance of canines to the story, and Parabellum is no different. The third chapter in the franchise and we have three dogs, two of them playing an active part in the story (granted, it's two dog characters; they actually used 10 different dogs for filming), finally getting their moment of vengeance. Dogs are not often involved in fight scenes, so they added an extra layer that really kept the excitement going.

But that is where the scope of the film starts to change. A lot of time and effort goes into expanding upon the lore of the Wick universe and while it provides some interesting peeks into John Wick's backstory, as a whole, the film becomes over-encumbered as it tries to bring in character after character to spout off exposition and force Wick to go from one location to the next. It feels like lazy writing, and while many of the environments are visually gorgeous and vibrant, with vivid lighting, their inclusion in the film feels more like superficial filler, force-feeding the audience the theme of "consequences" every few minutes.

It's important to note that Parabellum does not bring all of the story arcs to an end. There is still more story remaining, and I mention this purely because as an audience member you can tell when things still remain unfinished. I had gone into this film thinking that Parabellum was the final piece of a trilogy, and began to question how long the film was, as it felt like it could go for another hour despite being well past the two-hour mark.

You can expect to see appearances from your favourite characters in the franchise, from Laurence Fishburne, to Ian McShane and Lance Reddick.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum has such a strong start that I would recommend checking it out in a theatre just for the first 30 minutes alone. Action-packed and visually stunning, it draws you in right from the start. It does struggle to maintain that momentum throughout the second and third acts, however, as it tries a little too hard when expanding the lore, and forcing yet another sequel. Still, it was entertaining and nowhere near a bore, but it doesn't have the same intensity and direction its predecessors had.