FILM

"John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum" Is a Master Class in Weaponry

If Oscars were awarded for action scenes, "John Wick: Chapter 3'" would win, hands down.

Polygon

The John Wick franchise plays out like a stuntman's wet dream.

Most action movies rely on quick cuts or masked costumes to work around the lead actor's lack of actual combat ability. But in John Wick, action cleanly flows across expertly choreographed long takes, from multi-man gun battles to tense martial arts fights, with Keanu Reeves' bloodied mug ever-visible. Reeves might not be the most convincing actor in Hollywood, but John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum solidifies his status as the best leading stuntman by a mile.

The original John Wick is one of the greatest action movies ever made, featuring both amazing visuals and an incredibly tight script to match. The story is simple and compelling: a Russian mob boss' son steals a man's car and kills his dog. That man just happens to be John Wick, the greatest assassin to ever live who had just recently retired. So John Wick sets out to kill the mob boss' son, meaning he also has to destroy the entire Russian mob. It's not just a great action movie; it's a great movie, period.

John Wick: Chapter 2 pales in comparison. It expands on the worldbuilding of the original, delving into the underground society of assassins and seeing John forced to return to work once again due to a bad deal he made with an Italian crime boss. The resulting movie is very fun with some great action set pieces, but it's clunkier overall and largely devoid of the same sense of catharsis that ran through the first.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum picks up right where Chapter 2 left off. The sequel ended on a cliffhanger, with John Wick excommunicated from the assassin world after breaking one of its cardinal rules-doing business (read: killing someone) on neutral ground. The punishment: death. Now John Wick is on the run, desperate to escape New York City with every other assassin out for the open 14 million dollar contract on his head.

Like Chapter 2, Chapter 3 focuses heavily on the assassin world. John Wick's journey leads him to seek help from various sources, including former assassin and current hotel-for-assassins manager, Sofia (Halle Berry), and The Director (Anjelica Huston), head of the Russian assassin-training cell through which John was trained. New villains emerge as well, namely The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), chancellor of the "High Table" assassin syndicate, and Zero (Mark Dacascos of Iron Chef), a sushi chef assassin with masterful command of blades. The script is a lot of fun, less goofy than Chapter 2, but not nearly as swift as the original.

The action, however, is more than just fun. It's transcendent, elevating and highlighting action movie stunt work as an honest-to-goodness art form. If the original John Wick was the pinnacle of realistic gunplay, Chapter 3 is a master class in creative weaponry. Director Chad Stahelski designed every individual fight scene to make full use of its location and props, with highlights including a horse battle in a carriage stable, a dog fight in an open-air market, and a particularly gruesome book-related death in a library.

But nothing comes close to the antique shop fight, an awe-inspiring blend of creative scenery and breathtaking knife work. I won't spoil the surprise of this fight for anyone who hasn't watched yet, but I will say that few action scenes in movie history have come anywhere close to the sheer craftsmanship on display in this one. It's beyond exhilarating, toeing the line between brutality and humor and, at least in my theater, drawing actual applause twice. If Oscars were awarded for action scenes, this would be 2019's winner, hands down. Hell, it might be the single best action scene I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Moreover, John Wick makes a compelling argument for stunt work like this to be officially recognized at major movie awards shows.

Despite whatever flaws John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum may have with its script and regardless of whether or not its runtime is a tad bloated, few action movies have ever displayed the same level of skill and talent as this one. As such, I wouldn't just recommend that all action movie fans drop what they're doing to watch it on the biggest screen they can. I would demand it.

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡/5


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com


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