John Wick was a skilled, soulless assassin who changed his ways when found love in the arms of a beautiful woman . . . and a cute puppy. John Wick Chapter Three: Parabellum is not that story. The newest entry in the franchise of Keanu Reeve’s polite, sharp-dressed hitman deepens the character’s arc with a colorful variety of scenes, new characters, and inventive fights.
The original John Wick quietly rolled into theaters and became a smash hit, establishing an icon out of the one-man wrecking crew killing his way through the Russian mob. Like a live video game, he shot, punched, and sliced his opponents, leaving a high-volume body count. Surprisingly, John Wick: Parabellum ups the ante in every aspect, pitting the antihero against the world. And the world’s odds are not good. It’s John Wick on steroids—lots of bullets, fists, busted glass, swords, crashes, and even a few inventive assists by animal friends.
Two impressively-choreographed scenes play out on a New York bridge, one involving John facing off on ninjas with swords on motorcycles. It sounds far-fetched and over-the-top, but every moment is captivating. During one of the fights underwater, there’s also playful nod to Reeve’s iconic bullet dodging from The Matrix.
Writer and creator Derek Kolstad pulls back the curtain slightly on the man who grew up to be the Baba Yega (“The boogeyman”) with nods to his origins that could be explored in future installments. Halle Berry’s Sofia, the manager of the Moroccan Continental hotel, seems to also be placed solely for the purpose of a second spinoff (the first being the Continental series in development). Her time onscreen is, fortunately, brief. The last thing John needs is a tagalong, at least not a two-legged one. Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne also return as Winston, the manager of the New York Continental and the Bowery King, respectively.
While John’s late wife doesn’t appear, her presence is a big part of the film, pushing him forward on his quest to survive. For him, every kill is a step closer to once again disappearing again into that peaceful retreat, the inner Johnathan riding the coattails of John Wick. Even so, when he is faced with an offer for a full pardon with a lifetime commitment to the High Table, which John will win out?
John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum was directed by Chad Stahelski and releases this week from Lionsgate.