Review originally posted on Facebook, May 18, 2019. Reposted with minor stylistic edits, March 27, 2021. Significant modifications noted in [ ].
John Wick 3: Parabellum is a direct chronological extension of the second movie. Wick (Keanu Reeves) is now on the run after being excommunicated from a global secret society of assassins.
Relentless, Well-Choreographed Action
If someone is at all interested in nonstop, well choreographed, high-production value action, and a ridiculously high body count, then the third installment in the John Wick movie series is the right movie for you. [Note: I did not see or review prior movies before watching JW 3.]
The plot doesn’t have much else although an excellent supporting cast provides important dimension and complexity to the story. In fact, the entire plot can probably be summed up in its subtitle. “Para bellum” is the more accurate form, which is Latin for “prepare for war.” According to wikipedia, the phrase is most often used coupled with another phrase, so it would read: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”
John Wick does a little more than prepare for war. He drops scores of professional assassins licensed to kill him. Although thin, a plot exists. Wick is trying to atone for past sins and escape his past life as a hitman.
Practical Effects Elevate the Action
Parabellum takes its action scenes to extraordinarily high levels as a visual art form with a refreshing reliance on practical effects over cgi special effects. In fact, the effects and fights scenes are so good, I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie is nominated for major awards in special effects editing, cinematography, and sound. [For accolades and awards, see here.] (As a martial artist, I found the fight scenes very well choreographed and appreciated the authenticity of the attacks and defenses.) Notably, the movie cast Mark Dacascos, a highly skilled martial artist, in a principal role as an assassin recruited to kill John Wick.
John Wick 3 was also produced and directed by a martial artist and stuntman (Chad Stahelski) – based on the story and screenplay written by Derek Kolstad. The shear number of action scenes might be a bit gratuitous. But they are exceedingly well done. Reeves is impressive in what are clearly long continuously filmed fight involving knives and guns of all types. The movie benefits from a number of well drawn characters (presumably carryovers from previous movies) played by several excellent and well-known actors, including Laurence Fishburne (the Bowery King), Angelica Huston (Ruska Roma), Halle Berry (Sofia), Lance Reddick (Charon), and Ian McShane (Winston).
Don’t Get Distracted by the Body Count
I enjoyed the movie, although I found myself distracted by the body count. Just don’t expect much more than a straight up, fast-paced action movie with a lot of graphic violence.