May 16, 2019

GENRE | Keanu Reeves Reloads 'John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum'

"Tick tock, Mr. Wick."
Keanu Reeves Chad Stahelski | John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

I think John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum broke me. Action star Keanu Reeves reteams once again with longtime stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski for another blood-soaked, ultraviolent riff on gun-fu hitman genre flicks. However, the third effort is so unbelievably relentless and punishing despite some truly inventive choreography and stylishly fun direction put to screen.

What started as a lean, very basic premise revolving around a grieving retired assassin has morphed into a wild vision of American violence now scripted by a small army of screenwriters including original writer Derek Kolstad alongside Shay Hatten, Chris Colllins, and Marc Abrams. How the deep mythology of the secret killing organizations, coins, debts, and blood oaths from here to Morocco work are beyond confusing yet clearly irrelevant.

The sprawling cast of players includes a rejuvenated Halle Berry in a small but hardboiled assassin role midway through the film while franchise favourites Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, and Ian McShane also come back to both aid and antagonize Wick's arduous journey for redemption and revenge.

Mark Dacascos Chad Stahelski | John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Martial artist Mark Dacascos and non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon as the main physical and psychological antagonists prove formidable as Parabellum avoids sequel tendencies to build up a big bad in favour of a series of gruelling video game style boss battles one after another.

After three blood-soaked films, the indiscriminate killing of mostly dark-skinned, Asian, or faceless men in full body armour is wearing thin despite the admittedly stylish, inventive kills. It's impressive how Stahelski has envisioned new ways of killing from horses, motorcycles, and knife work to good old fashioned shootouts, but it becomes punishing as the non-stop surrealist violence never properly crescendos.

John Wick: Chapter 3 is mostly more of the same for both good and ill. Reeves is in fine form as our aging anti-hero yet his Wick and the glorious chaos around him feels exhausting despite the exhilarating highs. The over the top sequences mirror the fatigue in the character and so it's fitting yet relentless as things unfold like a dance or ballet. It's well-made action pornography.

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