“Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum | If you want peace, prepare for war.”
In the simplest way: ‘John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum‘ is a vibrant, vivacious visual veneer, painting over the crippling imperfections that have defined action films for decades, like a balm.
The best thing I did for myself, was watch the film practically as an unread audience member, having not watched the 2nd installment before watching Chapter 3. It was a bit of a clean slate to take the film in, and..?
I can confirm that this film can stand in isolation as a thoroughly gratifying action movie.
Spoiler-free Film Review:
In the first ‘John Wick‘ film, the retired assassin was mourning the death of his wife when he encountered an entitled mobsters offspring coveting his car to no avail.
One stupid break-in by the brat, and the purposeful killing of his new puppy – gifted to him by his wife posthumously – and Wick unshackles himself from the quiet solitude he had sequestered himself into. The film then proceeds to showcase why John Wick’s whispered reputation precedes him, as he goes on to lay waste to every single human who had blemished the unsullied peace he’d maintained.
In the third film, audiences are eased into tempestuous bloody waters, home to skillful deathizens restless in their conditional freedoms – leashed by pledges to the ominously titled crime lord council ‘The High Table’. There is a time crunch and ridonculous bounty on Wick’s head for some reason, which every single criminal of every shade, affiliation, locale and shape, wants in on.
I have never eaten popcorn faster in the cinema, than during the first 10 minutes of the film, where time plays the villain so menacingly.
Knife-wielding folks, friends, and what can only be accurately described as a “fuckton” of foes, cut each other down, while trying to slay the unslayable Baba Yaga.
Rules are Broken | History is Desecrated | Allegiances Forged | Covenants Remade | Tensions Run High | Loyalty is Tested | A Legend Remains!
Certain alluring plot details, Easter Eggs, are impeccably positioned to move the 3rd film along at a bracing pace, as well as titillating our interest towards another sequel – which I legitimately shouted for when the credits rolled, Adrenalin & speculation, running rabid through me!
I am sure one could find faults in the 3rd installment of Keanu Reeves’s ‘John Wick‘ film franchise, but you would have had to find them days after your mind stops reeling in thoroughly entertained awe.
In this singular instance, I honestly do not care about which characters may not be well-rounded. I do not mind the gory gorgeousness of the films death dances, nor do I particularly fancy being offended for not seeing my demographic being prominent within the film. All the assassins bear the air of mystery I don’t want resolved, because the imagination sometimes designs the most inspired fancies to shape the killers past, when they’re locked into audiences heads.
I love the films wickedness as one is meant to adore those dark things in the black: in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
‘Chapter 3‘ likely surpasses assassin cult classics like ‘Grosse Point Blank‘ on spirited delivery of a simple killers storyline alone, and somehow transcends the formulaic perfection of the ‘Bourne‘ trilogy.
Casting was the perfect mix of good enough; Bringing back the charming alumni of the first, including: Ian McShane as Winston, and Lance Reddick as Charon.
I think ‘John Wick‘ audiences would have struggled had there been a surplus of acting greats, weighing the streamlined action film, with the expectation of deep ass plotlines.
Industry veterans flitter past our screens in satisfying flashes of exploitative mirth and individualized eminence, including: Mark Dacascos (‘Cradle 2 the Grave‘, ‘The Crow‘), Anjelica Huston (‘The Addams Family‘), Halle Berry (‘Monsters Ball‘), and Laurence Fishburne (‘The Matrix‘).
I cackled at the eccentric surprise of ‘Brooklyn 99’s crazypants nutjob Adrian Pimento – portrayed by Jason Mantzoukas – playing the Tick-Tock Man (…and Right Hand of Fishburne’s Bowery King?).
A shout-out to the location scout for the film.
The first films indoor pool scene with the central antagonist, had its location reused as part of the spa facilities at the besieged NYC Continental Hotel – facilities which I still love.
I have earmarked all of the locations in the film as ones I need to have photoshoots in – They’re rich, refined, and cultured.
One of the most infuriatingly captivating characters Chapter 3 introduces to us, is ‘The Adjudicator’.
Played by Asia Kate Dillon (‘Orange is the New Black‘), The Adjudicator enters Wick-word in one of the subtlest portrayals of power.
Adjudicators are known as humans who are endowed with the power to determine eligibility of people in some circumstances, referee competitions or disputes, as well as make preliminary judgement on issues.
I am never mad at film director Chad Stahelski’s camera moxie, as he has an enviable cinematic balance with his scene-making dexterity. In this installment, he uses a play on the natural lighting of a mis-en-scene and the low-angle shot staple, to: introduce characters with gravitas as they exit cars, and emphasize the significance of their appearance before the proverbial shit hits the fan.
The Adjudicator exits her vehicle, to enter The Continental Hotel…and wordlessly showcases the irritated disappointment ‘The High Table’ has at, basically, everyone in the film, and that hell is about to be paid for defying their stringent codes.
The only wardrobe and airs to really focus on in John Wick’s 3rd Chapter, is the Adjudicators modern interpretation of powerful elite’s royal garb – ever present minimal cape, and shorn down hair subtly showcasing the resistance to archaic gender roles and the streamlining of zirs(non-binary pronoun) body as a conduit of power, and a tool wielded by the High Table.
I see absolutely nothing ridiculous about the film actually – even the ninja’s are believable with their hoodies and sneakers, popping out of innocuous shadows to systematically lay waste to rule-defiers.
I actually enjoyed the memorable Administration of the assassin world, run under High Table’s purview.
It’s methodical workings, natty 70s betting-inspired uniforms and archaic unhackable communication style(they make chalkboards a scary vibe), were kitch cool enough to be entirely believable as a functioning blackmarket control center.
The film straps recent crowd-pleasers like Sam’ Jacksons ‘Hitmans Bodyguard‘ and Neeson’s ‘Taken‘ to a horse, and drags them through the dust, while it respectfully kneels before killer Juggernaut ‘Kill Bill‘ and the soulful ‘Colombiana’.
Timothy Olyphant’s ‘Hitman‘ may get a little jealous at the attention the film garners, but that’s because it justifiably warrants a bit more appreciation.
Catch ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum‘ in South African theatres on 17th May 2019, at Ster Kinekor Cinema Nouveau, or a cinema near you.