Suffering, yet resilient Keanu Reeves returns in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” as retired assassin John Wick forced back into “the game” wreaking visually stunning havoc upon those, who seek the $14 million bounty on his body. Good luck. Rather, our condolences.
In the astounding fight scene early on, Keanu’s John takes on several assassins in the most electrifying screen knife fights ever. Keanu trained for months for “Chapter 3”. He’s an accomplished martial artist. Director Chad Stahelski brilliantly orchestrates this mixed and classic martial arts mash up.
John and his deadly adversaries stab and hurl knives at each other, in close. John sweetly executes the classic Aikido wrist lock, “kotegaeshi”, and hip throw, “koshinage”, in flowing succession. The fight has spectacular elements of kali knife fighting, Brazilian Jujitsu, Muay Thai kickboxing, and other martial arts I don’t know. At one point John hurls knives at his assailants like in carnival attraction booth. WTF, in an awesome sort of way.
I thought “John Wick: Chapter 2” was the best action movie of the last 10 years. Director Chad’s “John Wick: Chapter 3” is greater.
In the movie trailers: John takes on motorcycle Ninjas with guns and katanas. In “Chapter 3 – Parabellum” way more is greater. Parabellum literally means “prepare for war”. “John Wick 3” is the breathtaking non-stop action thrill ride. Granted screenwriters Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, and Marc Abrams’s story is lean on words, yet their muscular narrative amazingly compels.
In Casablanca (yes, really), John reunites with the formidable woman from his past Sofia, played by beautiful badass Halle Berry, who owes her “blood marker” to John. She reminds, “Consequences.” He too acknowledges, “Consequences.” Yeah, John’s vengeance is not just about bad guys killing his dog, the gift from his late wife Ellen, the love of his life.
“Chapter 3” resumes where “Chapter 2” left off. John killed Santino, the man who called upon John’s own “blood marker” and betrayed him to gain a seat at the criminal cartel High Table. John’s dear friend Winston, played by weary wise Ian McShane, Manager of the Hotel Continental – the cultural sanctuary for assassins, had warned Santino that John would kill him. Because “He came back for love.” He came back for Ellen. Killing Santino, Winston declares John excommunicado – banished from the Kingdom, along with the $14 million price tag on his head. Winston grants John an hour grace period before ‘it’s on’.
In the aftermath, Winston experiences the measured wrath of the Adjudicator, played with malevolent cool by Asia Kale Dillon, representing the High Table. She wants John dead and wants Winston out for breaking the rules, letting John escape. The Adjudicator also seeks to exact her ‘pound of flesh’ from New York gang leader, the Brewery King, played by hilariously ostentatious Laurence Fishburne. The Adjudicator hires elite ninja Zero, whimsically played by world-class martial artist Mark Dacascos.
Mark is the invaluable upgrade from “Chapter 2”. With all due respect to Ruby Rose’s mute assassin, Mark’s Zero is the imposing physical threat to John, as he thrashes John with series of spinning back kicks. Yet, “John Wick 3” retains a wicked sense of humor. Zero is fanboy of the “Boogie Man” John Wick. He confesses to John, “You do not disappoint.” I laughed out loud at a couple fanboy jokes near the end.
Amidst the wry whimsy and bloody cinematic mosaic, “Parabellum” reveals a sense of gravitas, at least for me. In the Moroccan desert John finds his mentor The Elder, played by enigmatic Said Taghmaoul. We clue into what John really wants. Oh, yeah it’s not about the dead puppy. In the surprising poignant narrative arc, Winston asks, “Who do you want to die as, Jonathan?”
Maybe, deep down it’s about love: The love lost, but not forgotten.
Keanu Reeves is John Wick. I mean that in the best way. Keanu checks his emotions just beneath the surface. His John has suffered tremendously, yet fights with all his heart. Keanu’s willingness to endure is endearing and honorable. He creates John as the tragic Hero we cheer for, to find peace, maybe even fall in love again.
Keanu’s John is much like us, albeit sans the assassin acumen. We all know suffering. We all deserve our own measure of peace. This is not a spoiler: I look forward to seeing Keanu in “Chapter 4”, because of that.
In the meantime, “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” is one my very favorite movies of the year. Just saying.