“John Wick” is the single most pro-dog media franchise since the conception of the WeRateDogs Twitter account, and portrays a mild, toned-down version of what would happen to anyone if you even laid a finger on my precious dog, Molly. In total seriousness, if any of you hurt her, every moment you aren’t running, I will only be getting closer. Chapter 3 of this morally righteous dog-avenging saga depicts our titular character (Keanu Reeves) on the run and facing consequences for breaking the rules in his previous films. “Parabellum” is a type of German automatic firearm and is derived from the Latin phrase para bellum which translates to “prepare for war” (per Dictionary.com). Basically, this is a movie specifically aimed at small children. Nothing traumatizing or difficult to explain to your therapist here.
To use a basketball reference, I describe the franchise of “John Wick” as Tim Duncan with a bunch of tattoos. For those of you who do not understand what that means, Tim Duncan was known as “The Big Fundamental”. He is the greatest Power Forward in NBA history because he was so mechanically sound. He never tried to do too much, and in doing so, was seemingly always successful. And “John Wick” is the movie equivalent of that, albeit with a bit more personality.
It follows a simple story and trusts the audience to be able to follow the narrative into another world without dumping a metric ton of exposition on you. Because the story does take place in a sort of alternative version of reality where there is a society of assassins in the world, you would be excused if you were to believe there would be a requirement to be versed in the lore of the franchise. But neigh. The writers did an exceptional job with the script because they reveal information that that is necessary, but they have faith that you can follow what is going on by relying on context. While Chapter 3 is obviously the third installment in the franchise, viewing the previous two is not totally necessary to understand the events that are transpiring.
What makes this film, and the franchise as a whole, so exceptional is the action. Jonathan Eusebio is credited as the stunt coordinator and choreographer on this project, and without knowing his salary, I can assuredly state that he is criminally underpaid. The physical combat portrayed in the movie can be compared to one elongated dance that could appropriately be scored by Electronic Dance Music or classical opera, best exemplified by Anjelica Huston’s character directing a Belarusian ballet during an action set piece. There is a visual beauty of the physicality displayed that calls to the elegance of a graceful waltz meeting the unhinged brutality of a bare-knuckle boxing match.
There is noticeable influence by eastern films, particularly martial-arts films and anime. I will not pretend to be an expert in the subject, but with what little familiarity I do have, I recognized it early and often. Similar to most anime protagonists, John is not threatening because of his physicality, rather based on reputation and willpower, and therefore the coordination of his actions is of the utmost importance to depict his true power. John fights like the character, Spike, from my personal favorite anime, “Cowboy Bebop”, who describes his own style as “fluid like running water” and using his enemies’ force against themselves. John takes down hordes of adversaries as well as physical Leviathan and real-life Philadelphia 76er’s 7’3” Center, Boban Marjanovic, despite not seeming nearly as formidable as those he was opposing. There are even similarities to that show’s finale and much of the combat of the film, whether it be the use of Japanese swords versus handgun or the one man realistically taking on an entire army.
Another aspect that this film, as well as the rest of the franchise, thrives in is world-building. As I previously mentioned, there is not an abundance of exposition so much of the storytelling is done through visuals. New York is portrayed as a city in perpetual rain with an omnipresent neon glow. There is a mix of prominent Eastern European and Japanese culture at every corner, and we as the viewer, are given the respect to understand this world without being patronized and stopping the film every 10 minutes to explain why things are the way they are. This is an area where the film could have strayed into problems, but thanks to the focus of the director, stays on point consistently throughout.
Keanu Reeves is never going to win an Oscar. I am sorry if I just shattered someone’s dreams but it is just a fact that society needs to come to grips with. But that does not mean he cannot act, and in fact, John Wick might be a role that no one else could play as well as he does. The endearing, unassuming awkwardness behind his dialogue only serves to exacerbate the threatening persona he wears. I would venture as far as to say that he is more fitting for the role of John than he is of Neo from “The Matrix”.
The film is perhaps too simple to be a perfect 10 out of 10, but it achieves every single goal it sets out to do. For a movie that is completely driven by its action and choreography, it has a compelling narrative and invites audiences to enjoy the show. If you are not a fan of action and blood, I can understand why you may pass on this film, but to everyone else, I can promise you will enjoy this one.
I give “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” a graceful 8.9 out of 10
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishbourne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Jerome Flynn, Anjelica Huston, Boban Marjanovic
Runtime: 2 Hours and 11 Minutes