John Wick 3: Parabellum

Released: 2019
Writer: Derek Kolstad (story and screenplay), Shay Hatten (screenplay), Chris Collins (screenplay)
Director: Chad Stahelski
Music: Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard

The plot of this movie was not solely structured around the $14 million bounty on John Wick’s head. In the opening of the movie, we count down to the contract’s opening, all while John Wick races the clock to get his matters in order for his survival. Then the contract opens, and the thrill of anticipating John Wick fighting for his life is jumpstarted. Winston said it best: “And away we go”.

But to my surprise, the whole “on the run for his life” synopsis wasn’t the main plotline. Rather, an adjudicator (someone who studies and settles disputes) is sent from the High Table to assess the Continental, Winston, and John Wick for having broken the rules in John Wick 2.

Before we go anywhere with this movie, let’s start with the man who gave the character life: Mr. Keanu Reeves. This man has the sensational ability to step into a character and fulfill it beyond any writer’s dreams because Keanu doesn’t just play John Wick. No, no. A man who dedicates years out of his life to arms training, dieting, and relentless tactical training doesn’t just walk out onto set wearing a suit, holding a gun and calling himself John Wick. No. Keanu Reeves swaggers out onto that damn set with an AR-15 draped over his shoulder and a tactically-lined suit, and he owns his character. Keanu Reeves is John Wick.

If it weren’t for Keanu Reeves’ absolute dedication to exceeding the expectation for his roles in movies, we would have been delivered a half-assed assassin. But no. We were given the Baba Yaga of all badasses in cinema. All thanks to Mr. Keanu Reeves.

By the way, if you don’t already know (because I didn’t until I did my John Wick research when I fell in love with the first film), Keanu Reeves is an absolute gift to humanity. He is a humble gentleman, never too big of a movie star to clean up sets or help a stranger in need. Keanu Reeves is one of those people we feel unworthy of being around not because he’s famous, but because despite who he is praised for being in Hollywood, he still considers himself as average. So, if you don’t already love the man (bros and gals alike, man everybody loves Keanu), watch a couple videos of the guy outside of work. It’ll make you love John Wick even more, oddly.

My overall review of this movie goes like this: it took me all night to wind down from being throttled by the non-stop action and new editions to this movie. In fact, I was so amped up that I went back to work on our craziest night of the week to channel my energy into something constructive. And I bragged all night about the movie. My co-workers probably hated me!

Rarely does a sequel to a movie satisfy the way the original did. John Wick 2 conquered that cliché, and then we were delivered John Wick 3 which accomplished the impossible: not only satisfying its audience, but making us crave more.

As far as I can recall, if I ever wanted a movie to come after the second or third in an installment, it’s because I was hoping the 4th movie would correct all the wrongs or fulfill all that was neglected in the first three. John Wick isn’t like that. I’m eagerly awaiting John Wick Chapter 4 not because of any lack of entertainment or any flaw in the first three movies; I’m anticipating the fourth movie because I’m hyped to see what Wick comes at them with next.

John Wick 3 introduces some new faces, and some of Wick’s old acquaintances.

The Adjudicator, played by Asia Kate Dillon, identifies herself as the protagonist without saying a word or firing a shot. In her introductory scene, when she slides that coin across the counter to Charon at the Continental, we hear our conscience whisper, “Here comes trouble”. What a powerful character introduction. With that cock walk, those pursed lips and that authoritative demeanor, the Adjudicator is checking in for business.

After establishing herself as the enemy, the adjudicator hires the leader of a clan of assassins that act like ninjas (minus the outfits). Zero (Mark Decascos) is eager to take out John Wick, and later reveals comically that he’s a huge fan of Mr. Wick’s, as are members of his clan. In a film filled to the brim with action, Zero is our well-received comic relief.

John Wick isn’t alone, of course. He picks up help along the way from legendary beauty Halle Berry who plays Sofia, a member of management in Casablanca.

Let me say that I was reluctant to welcome a female lead on board the movie at the stage it was entering with Parabellum. My apprehension had nothing to do with Halle Berry and everything to do with Hollywood cinema. Often in movies that feature an attractive female lead, their character is sacrificed for the actress’ good looks. A film as tough and gritty and fast-paced as John Wick deserved a hot female ally who could keep up with him while maintaining the best qualities of the franchise.

Halle Berry did not disappoint. In fact, Halle Berry went hardcore in what’s called “John Wick” level training. Adapting to a new diet, dedicating almost an entire year of her life to tactical choreography, canine training, and arms training, Halle transformed herself into the badass Sofia, former-assassin and current manager of a hotel in Casablanca.

Let me just list all the things I loved about Sofia:

  • Sofia’s costume did not sexualize her. To play into her John Wick styled character, she needed a wardrobe that represented the “tactical” theme of the movie. I was impressed to see the focus withdrawn from her physicality and target her skill because, damn she deserved the credit for sacrificing almost an entire year of her life to training for Sofia.
  • Realistically, a female character that leads with looks alone would not be able to survive the world in which John Wick works. But when we lay eyes on Sofia, especially entering the “Escaping Casablanca” fight scene, we’re given the impression that she’s just as qualified as John for the blood and pain of the assassin business.

Halle Berry carried a presence of power with her as Sofia. A woman fueled by merciless loathing with a backstory begging for sympathy. Her character was a great addition.

While we’re here, let’s talk about Sofia’s fight in the “Escaping Casablanca” scene. I loved how realistic the choreography was. Sofia took down gunmen in the movie the same way a trained woman could in real life. None of it was strings and props. It was real stunts, real action, and Halle nailed it.

The dogs were something quite extraordinary. Just to hear them in the background barking and growling induced subconscious fear in us. That somewhere, these attack dogs were prowling for the enemy. Then Sofia would get into a situation, call out for the dogs, and here they come snarling and tackling gunmen, gnawing and neutralizing the threat.

The whole scene with Sofia being on John Wick’s level would have been badass as a stand alone. But add the attack dogs and you’ve created an almighty fight scene that set new standards.

On to the score…

Music in movies is as essential as casting and directing. I pay very close attention to the way I’m emotionally manipulated by music during a movie.

Executing a film score is in knowing what to play and when to play it. The choice to leave the fight scenes silent in this film amplified the action. Hearing the grunts, the shing of the swords, the throttle of the bikes, the thunks of knives, the satisfying sound of glass shattering when a body is thrown through it. All of those raw sounds brought us into the fight whereas music can often create a boundary that makes us realize we’re viewing instead of experiencing. Because our sensory was triggered in the silence of these fight scenes, we were there for every squelch and punch and gunshot. We lived John Wick 3.

The only fight scene that had music, I believe, was the “Final Battle” scene at the Continental. The music wasn’t House/Electro which suited the setting of John Wick 2, it was classical which suited the elegance of the hotel itself. Again, another perfect music selection.

We had some music entering the bridge scene, but when the fighting started, the music cut so we could experience those sounds.

So, my expectations of the film were exceeded. The film expanded beyond just John Wick. It allowed us an in-depth exploration of his past, and presented many opportunities for spin-offs in the future.

My only critiques would have to be the minor, minor details like John slapping the helmets or killing Ernest with a book. The fights in the movie are so realistic that these details seemed out of place to me. To place a book against a man’s face and slap it, and for that impact to actually hurt Ernest didn’t seem to fit the realistic style of other fights. And in the “Final Battle” scene, if their armor was bulletproof, why did they react like being punched in the helmet actually hurt? Overlooking those minor flaws because they’re basically irrelevant, John Wick 3: Parabellum is a must-see, must-own, must-watch-on-repeat film.

Fun facts:

  • “Parabellum” means “prepare for war”.
  • This film brought in over $326 million in worldwide box office rollouts, ranking number 24 on the 2019 Box Office hits.
  • Mention of a spinoff called “Ballerina”, directed by Len Wiseman, will feature the story of a female assassin seeking revenge on those who killed her family
  • The Continental, the television show, started filming this year (2019), and will appear on the Starz network soon, featuring eight episodes its first season.

John Wick Chapter 4 has an announced release date of May 21, 2021…I know where I’ll be. Will you join me?

2 thoughts on “John Wick 3: Parabellum

  1. I love your review and assessment of this movie. I have not seen this movie. It is on my watch list for sure. Now I am super excited to watch it. I remember your excitement when you got done watching it for the 1st time. Really made me wish I would have watched it with you.

    Liked by 1 person

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