You must never forget how this wicked gun-fu revivalist saga started. The titular character, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), is a retired assassin who wreaked havoc and slaughtered a horde of mobsters in retribution for the death of his beloved dog. Absurd as the premise might sound, the first movie instead spawns a new icon—celebrated for the gun-fu bravura, the devotion to over-kill and the underworld myth-building. The second chapter cements Wick’s reputation deeper and further digs the myth that becomes more obscure as the titular character reluctantly honoring a blood oath he made a few years back, only to be double-crossed. At the end of it, Wick is declared ‘excommunicado‘ and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum begins the minute Wick run for his life.
“Si vis pacem, para bellum,” Winston (Ian McShane) warns Wick in this movie. The Latin adage means “if you want peace, prepare for war”; and the whole passage is basically the whole plot of Parabellum. As every assassin in the world learning of John Wick’s excommunicado status plus the 14-million bounty on his head, he must really prepare for the worst; there’s no way out but war. Clocking in 130 minutes, becoming the longest among the saga so far, Parabellum undoubtedly amplifies the scale—including the set pieces, the characters and the body counts—with massive spectacles, making it one of the most interesting action sagas in the recent years.
The basic question has always been: what else they can do with the fighting bravuras and the enticing myth-building John Wick has always excelled in? The obvious answer is: cranking the doses up. Chad Stahelski with the stunt team keeps exploring the most impossible set pieces that keep us awe-stricken and pondering how they even come up with the ideas and, most importantly, how they even filmed those scenes. While the trademark gun-fu is still the main maneuver, Parabellum confidently ventures beyond that, re-inventing some of action flicks’ most sophisticated fighting scenes to date.
In one occasion, Wick will make a callback to the infamous pencil scene with some kind “complementary” scene. On another occasion, he will wreck your nerve with some trading knives (in a scene which features Keanu Reeves’ former stuntman, Tiger Chen) against some triads; a few moments later, Wick smacks people’s head with horse and runs off with it. Hale Berry shows up half-way through as a similarly dog-loving bad-ass as Wick and presents one of the most perplexing fighting choreography ever made—featuring two cock-nivore dogs. Mark Dacascos joins the murder party as a leader of modern ninja assassins whose apprentices including The Raid duo who provide comic reliefs. Most of the fighting sequences are a little prolonged; but, they all deliver the thrills expected from a John Wick‘s second sequel. No need to tell the details about the actions, just sit back and enjoy the spectacles that won’t make you relaxed.
Parabellum also amps up and deepens the myth, which in the first movie only appears as some distant device. The High Table hierarchy is exposed more, introducing a new character, an adjudicator, who could have been portrayed by Carrie Ann Moss making a complete Matrix reunion along with Reeves and Laurence Fishburne who reprises his role as Bowery King. Even when the movie delves deeper into the core of the mythology, Parabellum never bother making lengthy exposition, but rather trust audiences’ deducing skills to connect the dots. The myth-building doesn’t seem to stop expanding up to this point and we just look forward to seeing more of it in the future.
For every neck-breaking, skull-crunching, blood-gushing and jaw-dropping action spectacle, Parabellum will either present a glimpse of the myth-building if not some effective comic reliefs. By relentlessly leaping from various orgasmic, nerve-racking action set pieces to ever-expanding world building, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a wickedly lethal chapter.