The word “Parabellum” is derived from the Latin phrase “If you want peace, prepare for war.” It’s also the name given to the most widely used 9mm rounds used. Both sides of this double entendre fit John Wick’s third chapter perfectly, teasing the glorified action-porn that follows.
For those new to the series, “John Wick” is the love child of Keanu Reeves, Chad Stahelski, and David Leitch. Stahelski and Leitch first meet Keanu while working as stunt coordinators on “The Matrix.” By the time the third film wrapped, the three had formed a bond of mutual respect. Reeves continued to hone his martial art skills, even directing his action film, 2013’s “Man of Tai Chi.” After becoming attached to Derek Kolstad‘s original Wick script, he immediately called on Chad and David. He wanted them not only as stunt coordinators but to share in directing it. With the success of “John Wick,” their careers took a new step, and each has helmed some exciting films since including “Atomic Blonde,” “Deadpool 2,” and the two follow-up Wick films.
“Parabellum” begins mere minutes after the ending of Chapter 2. Wick (Keanu Reeves) has broken the rules of the Continental Hotel, and in one hour a contract on his life will go into effect. The network of assassins and killer services he relied on are all now literally out to get him. When dealing with an agency, this dangerous, powerful, and strict, there is no room for friendship. In a film like this, the plot serves as little more than a structure for the action and violence to hang on. As he frantically tries to call in favors and find a loophole to survival, countless goons try to murder him, but he kills them first. Oh, but what a glorious ballet of death it is.
There are a few keys to making a quality action film, most of which are ignored by Hollywood. Fights need to be properly choreographed. The camera needs to move in a way that serves that action, instead of trying to hide mistakes. Takes should be extended, allowing the audience to take in the movements of the assailants, not a montage of split-second cuts that only serve to disorient. Last but far from least, the film should revel in the unexpected. This can take the form of a unique stunt, a surprisingly clever or brutal kill, camera movements that defy physics, or Art Direction that pushes the limits of “eye candy.” “Parabellum” delivers all of this and more.
I called the original “John Wick,” the best American made action film of its time. Both of Gareth Evans‘ “Raid” films pushed the action envelops a bit more than “Wick” was able to achieve. “Chapter 2” was a very worthy successor, and while still a top-notch action film, left something to be desired. It failed the stand on the same plateau as its predecessor. “Chapter 3” manages to take everything that came before and amps it up to 11. The fights are more visceral, the gunplay hits harder, and the visuals leave you drooling for more. It’s pure sensory overload in the most thrilling ways possible. The series’ brand of odd humor continues to pop-up, providing much-needed relief as the occasional chuckles remind you not to hold your breath too long. Even the already impressive cast is bolstered. Everyone that survived “Chapter 2” reappears again, along with a few notable additions. Halle Berry, who is pretty hit and miss when it comes to action films, underwent some of the same training as Reeves and shines here. She, along with her two armored attack dogs, threaten to steal a few action scenes from Keanu! Mark Dacascos also shows up as the mentally unstable assassin Zero. Dacascos, who also has a history in martial arts, does some of his best work since “Brotherhood of the Wolf.”
If you are looking for pure action, martial arts, and gunplay, it’s difficult to think of any film that provides all that “John Wick 3: Parabellum” does. It is a through-and-through action masterpiece.
John Wick 3: Parabellum