Keanu Reeves Halle Berry Ian McShane Laurence Fishburne
Mark Dacascos Asia Kate Dillon Lane Reddick Anjelica Huston
‘Parabellum’ apparently means “call to war”, which is the theme of John Wick: Chapter 3. Repeatedly, we see groups aligning up against one or more persons, and agents being sent out to “be of service” (“I have served…years; I will be of service.” is the ritualistic response to a challenge)—which usually means taking someone out. But the central character to go to war with is John Wick (Keanu Reeves, in his third appearance as Wick).
By the third John Wick film, most of the drama and character development have been expended in the first two, and in this third we get what looks like a stunt man’s dream: endless scenes of choreographed fights that used to be fascinating, but by now have become repetitive and tedious. As with many action films, the fight scenes go on for 30 minutes or more. This is understandable in view of the director Chad Stehelski’s background as a stuntman, but when that is essentially all that’s in a movie, it can’t hold the interest of those of us wanting a story.
John Wick 3 is marked by extremely violent fight scenes that sometimes are accentuated by humorous images, which did indeed bring laughs from the viewers. As in cartoons like “Bugs Bunny”, stunts are punctuated with humor, usually from one character clobbering another in rapid sequences with bodies flying into each other or into things like glass cases and careening every which way. Many are cleverly done and get chuckles and guffaws from the audience. There are swords that go completely through a man, with the point appearing on his backside and swords or guns being shoved into a man’s head then pounded to drive it in further. One has to see it as a cartoon; otherwise, it’s just sick.
In this version of John Wick (Reeves) has a bounty on his head to the tune of $14 million for killing someone in the Continental Hotel where the rule is that no blood can be shed there. This rule comes down from the “High Table”, a mysterious group with inviolable rules overseeing underground criminal operations in the city. Wick tries various strategies (and wins out in a formidable number of hostile encounters) to redeem himself, eventually ending up in Morocco where the highest of highs gives him instructions for expiation, but only after he does extreme penance. Then even more battles occur on a set reminiscent of Wick 2, which had mirrors. This one has see-through glass everywhere in many configurations and on multiple levels. (It’s a stunning set design.)
Moreso than in the previous Wick films, this one involves shifting loyalties and very little drama in terms of personal interactions or character development. For instance, Wick’s relationship with Sofia (Berry) is not explained, other than that they had a history that left her so resentful she leaves him on the desert sands, making a big show of depriving him of water in a gruesome way.
Keanu Reeves owns the character of John Wick admirably, as he has done for the previous renditions, but the constant “mano-a-mano” encounters show him to be as weary as we are of the endless struggles. A fresh new exotic face is Asia Kate Dillon, as the Continental’s chief, who conveys a mixture of threat and decisiveness. She is good, but I would have liked to see more mercilessness, a fault that I attribute to the writers or director rather than to the actress. Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne are marvelous in their continuing roles as underground criminal elements. Halle Barry did well with what she had; her storyline did not add much, and her character needed to be much more developed to make it interesting.
John Wick is on the run (i.e., in a string of stunts and cartoon-like maneuvers) with a $14 mil bounty on his head after breaking an almost inviolable rule in a consecrated place.
Grade: C+ By Donna R. Copeland