Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Chad Stahelski
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Anjelica Huston, Halle Berry, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Mark Dacascos, Said Taghmaoui, Tobias Segal, Randall Duk Kim, Jason Mantzoukas.
In 2014 we were introduced to John Wick (played by Keanu Reeves, from Speed and The Matrix trilogy, etc), an indestructible assassin who is a more lethally efficient assassin than even Jason Bourne. Wick had retired from the business to spend time with his family. But when a Russian mob killed his family and his dog, Wick set off on a violent mission of revenge. That film consisted of plenty of carefully choreographed carnage and some spectacular fights and stunt work and a high body count. It also reinvented Reeves as taciturn and unstoppable action hero. The second film in the series upped the ante in terms of action and body count and also the personal stakes for our hero.
John Wick 3: Parabellum takes up immediately following the events of the second film. Having executed a rival assassin inside the sacred walls of New York’s Continental Hotel, a sort of safe haven and neutral territory for assassins, Wick drew the ire of the High Table, a mysterious and powerful organisation that controls a worldwide network of hitmen. Wick has been declared “incommunicado” and a bounty of $14million put on his head. This lucrative reward draws lots of deadly assassins out of the woodwork, all intent on collecting. But Wick is not that easy to kill.
Anyone attempting to help Wick is severely punished by the High Table, in the form of the enigmatic Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon, from tv series Orange Is The New Black, etc). This includes Winston (Ian McShane), the imperious manager of the Continental, the pigeon loving self-styled Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), and a formidable Russian dance instructor (Anjelica Huston) with links to the Russian underworld. In Morocco Wick receives help from Sofia (Oscar winner Halle Berry), the manager of that city’s Continental Hotel, who has a pair of lethally efficient attack dogs. And one of the more deadly assassins on Wick’s tail is Zero (Mark Dacascos, from Maximum Impact, etc).
The subtitle Parabellum says all you need to know about this fast paced and violent film which dishes up an all-out assault on the senses. The action here is fast and furious, with lots of stylishly executed carnage and physically punishing fight scenes. There are even a couple of chases through the streets of New York involving horses and motorbikes. There is a stylish climactic confrontation in a complex glass structure that was vaguely reminiscent of Enter The Dragon.
Returning director Chad Stahelski is himself a former stunt performer who doubled for Reeves in some of the action sequences for The Matrix trilogy, and he gives the series a sense of continuity and a constant tone (rather like Richard Donner with the four Lethal Weapon movies). He handles the action sequences with energy and imagination, and visually the film seems inspired by the likes of John Woo et al. The film has been stylishly shot by Danish cinematographer Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak, The Shape Of Water, etc), who also shot John Wick 2, further adding to the consistent look and tone.
John Wick 3 has been written by series regular Derek Kolstad, working with first time feature writers Stacy Hatten and Chris Collins (who has worked extensively in television in series like The Wire, etc), and who gives the material a similarly gritty feel, and Marc Abrams (who has written for tv series like The Bernie Mac Show, Entourage, etc). The writers have injected a dose of black humour into proceedings this time around to lighten the tone. Also returning is Lance Reddick who plays Charon, the Continental’s efficient and all-knowing concierge, and he has been given a greatly expanded role her.
At 132 minutes though John Wick 3 is a little too long. There are a couple of sequences, such as one where an impeccably attired Wick wanders through a desert, which come across as a bit silly. But overall, John Wick 3 is an exciting action film that leaves you wanting more. The ending suggests the direction that the inevitable John Wick 4 will take.