Netflix UK film review: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Ivan Radford | On 19, Sep 2019
Director: Chad Stahelski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Asia Kate Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane, Halle Berry
Watch John Wick Chapter 3 online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
It’s been two years since we saw John Wick (Keanu Reeves) put himself in danger by taking on the High Table of the assassin’s guild, of which he was once a member. In John Wick terms, it’s actually been only an hour, as John Wick: Chapter 3 drops us right back into the fray just 60 minutes after the ending of Chapter 2. In John Wick’s universe, time isn’t time: time is action.
Now “excommunicado”, Wick finds himself on the run in Manhattan – on the run because, as soon as that hour ticks away, the High Table add him to the list of exiled former assassins, placing a $14 million bounty on his head. For every hour that he stays a live, that bounty increases – every tick of the clock means higher stakes, more threats, and – therefore – more action. It’s the kind of stripped-down plot that made the very first John Wick movie such a thrilling watch: the franchise is at its best when boiling everything down to the simple question of who will in the next fight faced by our hero.
Where most actioners would leave the winner never in doubt, John Wick’s strength lies in the way that it dares us to believe otherwise, delivering bone-crunching set pieces that make sure every blow is felt by everyone in the audience. Chad Stahelski, who was Reeves’ stunt double on The Matrix, remains at the helm, and continues to choreograph the camera and the action sequences with a ruthless brutality that’s part ballet and part blunt confrontation. It’s a breathtaking combination that’s laced with a dark comedy – and writer Derek Kolstad (who penned the first two films and co-writes here with Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, and Marc Abrams) ensures that streak of gallows humour remains.
The only thing that changes is the scale of the story, which suffers slightly under its own weight: if the title (based on a Roman military quote) isn’t enough of a clue, the movie’s ambitions become clear with the introduction of a host of characters attempting to complicate the franchise’s mythology and each party’s motivations. There’s Anjelica Huston as the head of the Russian society Wick was once a part of, there’s Halle Berry as a former friend who whisks him off down a distracting subplot, and there’s Laurence Fishburne enjoying himself as crime lord Bowering King, whose role in the whole story, not unlike Ian McShane’s slippery hotel manager Winston, gets a little muddled and repetitive.
Fortunately, though, we also get introduced to Asia Kate Dillon as The Adjudicator, who is there to ensure everything unfolds according to the assassin guild’s code. Dillon, who has repeatedly stolen scenes in Billions, is a superb screen presence, and they bring a cool, intimidating authority to what could have been a forgettable, two-dimensional role.
The result is a tricky balance between deja vu and doing something different, but Chapter 3 finds a path through the mayhem by, well, dialling up the mayhem. If Chapter 2 tapped into Buster Keaton-style action, Chapter 3 descends into Tom and Jerry-style carnage, this time using everything from library books to horses as weapons – an absurd string of events that Keanu Reeves sells with impeccable deadpan. With a bloated 140-minute runtime (30 minutes longer than the first film), John Wick may have lost some its lean, mean charm, but when it comes to action this stylish, the two hours race by.
John Wick Chapter 3 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.