Initially, I was hesitant when the first chapter of the John Wick series came out, but like many people, after seeing the film, I was blown away by the superb choreography. The second came, and I thought no way lightning could strike twice, yet it did. Now with the third entry, I have to say while it continues the same level of beautiful shots and some of the best action in the genre, some elements miss the target for an enjoyable, yet unsatisfying experience.
Leading right off of Chapter 2, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finds himself desperately trying to survive against Winston’s (Ian McShane) $14 million target that has been painted on his back. Every hitman wants that money, and John needs to tie up loose ends to stop the call for his head. A story that starts off riveting, and ends on a note that left me hungry for more.
The draw to Reeves’ action trilogy is the mind-blowingly crafted fight scenes. The classic style the series has brought to the table continues to drop my jaw while delivering plenty of new ideas. Besides the typical kung fu and gun-fu, there is dog-fu, motorcycle-fu, and horse-fu.
A flow goes to the series, which is crucial to their quality. Combat feels fluid as the story weaves itself in and out. For the first half, this is an easy ace, but the second gets a little sloppy. Instead of rounding out on a third movie, the story gets too big for its foundation and starts to crumble in some areas. The wrong beats get hit, and the experience gets disrupted.
I have found a distinctive tone in these movies. It is serious and thoughtful, yet a touch of dark humor with a side of cheesiness allows for it to give that wink to the audience to let everyone know that a dog avenging hitman is not too deep. Parabellum gets weird with some of its humor that feels out of place, like a different personality that I have not come to known through the previous two entries.
Eccentric characters continue to fill this world. McShane’s performance as Winston continues to steal every scene that features him. Laurence Fishburne’s Bowery King truly is a king with his intense charisma. New faces like the badass Sofia (Halle Berry) and the mysterious advocate for the hitman organization the High Table, The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) moves the narrative in exciting directions. While Zero (Mark Dacascos) feels out of place by being too cheesy and having off comedic timing.
The lighting and cinematography still shatter my expectations. The vibrant lights consume the night in New York and other destinations in a spectacular way. While the action feels like music with its rhythm, the visual components feel like a masterfully crafted painting.
Parabellum has its issues but shoots down any of its competition in the world of gunfights and martial arts. While this continues to be my favorite action series, I feel let down by later parts of the film. A stylistic, yet underwhelming introduction felt like a warning that this would not meet my skyscraper-high expectations. Still, I cannot hate on a movie with this cast, action, and the several good boys who fight for justice and belly rubs.
Image via Summit Entertainment