In the annals of Hollywood’s best action movies, there exists the Holy Trinity of Johns: John Rambo, John McClane, and John Wick. There’s a good chance you’re not so familiar with that last guy. Let’s cover the basics. John Wick is an assassin. John’s been through a lot in the last few weeks portrayed in ‘John Wick’ and ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’. He’s been thrown through some windows, hit by a couple of cars, and been shot at more than a few times. Long story short, John has found himself with a $14 million price on his head, and completely cut off from the shadowy organization known only as The High Table.
This brings us to ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’. Just as he did with its two predecessors, director Chad Stahelski pushes the limits of what violent acts human beings can inflict on one another in front of a camera. Stahelski, along with his long time collaborator David Leitch, got their start in Hollywood as stunt performers and coordinators. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that the ‘John Wick’ series boasts some of the most impressive fight choreography ever put to film. Whether it’s relentless hand-to-hand combat, agile knife fights, or a deadly and precise shootout, each installment gives you something you’ve never seen before and ‘Chapter 3’ continues this proud tradition with gusto.
These brutally engaging fight sequences are presented in unique and creative settings. A compound in Casablanca. Between the bookshelves of the New York Public Library. A room made entirely of glass. Stahelski provides exquisite backdrops for his exhilarating and complex melees. Director of photography Dan Laustsen–who also shot ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ and 2017 Best Picture winner ‘The Shape of Water’–produces some truly jaw-dropping shot compositions. Whether it’s a dark alleyway lit only by the glow of neon signs, or the lobby of the mysterious Continental Hotel, there is plenty of beautiful and vivid imagery to take in between the visceral action.
To write a piece about a ‘John Wick’ movie without mentioning the legendary Keanu Reeves would be nothing short of criminal. As impressive as this franchise is, it owes much of its success to its wonderful leading man. He effortlessly draws in the audience with his unique brand of calculated, monosyllabic stoicism. In case his magnetic determination isn’t quite enough, there are very few A-list actors in Hollywood who put their own bodies on the line like Keanu Reeves. If John Wick is fighting someone on the screen, it’s nearly always Keanu performing the fight choreography himself. He’s a bonafide martial artist in his own right, working closely with his stunt coordinators to produce the most convincing and thrilling sequences possible. Without a true professional like Keanu Reeves, you don’t get three of this decade’s best action movies.
But there has always been more to the ‘John Wick’ series than Keanu Reeves killing people in insane ways. There is incredibly genuine pathos and tragedy to be found in Mr. Wick’s journey. This latest addition is a story about consequences. When we first met John Wick he lost the love of his life, and his dog Daisy–his wife’s last gift to him and the legacy of her love–was taken away from him not long after. In his quest for revenge and retribution, John Wick has made many choices and even more enemies. Now, he has to face the music for what he has done, as does everyone who has helped him along the way. From Ian McShane’s sardonic Winston to Laurence Fishburne’s boisterous Bowery King, no one is safe from consequence. John tried to leave his old life behind when he married his wife Helen, and has instead plunged further than ever back into it in her absence. ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ is a more-than-worthy addition to the franchise, and our favorite soft-spoken assassin isn’t running out of steam any time soon.