Nothing quite evokes a nod of approval from action film enthusiasts than hearing the name John Wick, and this is Wick better than ever. The Hollywood cliché of follow-up films degrading with each successor is laughed at in this stellar third film of the franchise. If its sequel wasn’t enough to prove that director Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves can push the limits of the action genre, then John Wick: Parabellum certainly is. Ravenous for more style, more death, and more slickness; Parabellum provides everything a hungry audience could need, all with deadly accuracy.
Parabellum is art in action film form; Wick is the painter and his weapons are his brushes. From guns, blades, fists, teeth, and books (you heard that right); Wick has complete mastery of every tool around him, witnessing him paint strokes of death and destruction is an absolute pleasure to experience. The achievement in fight choreography in this film in beyond words; from the gun-fu gunplay, hand-to-hand duels, motorcycle fights, sword skirmishes, and every which way you can kill some in-between, everything within this film is done with finesse and style. There aren’t many films released within a decade that can actually make you stop and wonder how the directors and team achieved such a thing, Parabellum is one of those films. There are fight sequences in this film that are so astounding that it makes you question the filmmaking industry as a whole. How is this degree of quality so rare within such a large industry? The answer is likely boring.
Keanu Reeves is a presence to behold in almost every physical sense; a legend in both Hollywood and within Asian cinema, Reeves dedication to his own stunts outweighs his often shaky acting within this franchise as it further builds credence to his legacy as one of Hollywood’s greatest action stars of all time. The way in which Reeves delivers his lines and conveys his emotions still falls flat in certain scenes, despite the consistent improvement he has been showing. Halle Berry stands alongside Reeves as an absolute stunning supporting role, proving she has just as much raw potential as Reeves within this genre. To say she stole the spotlight would imply the spotlight wasn’t given to her, because it was, and it was damn well deserved.
In Parabellum we get a deeper exploration of the fascinating syndicates and factions that exist within this underground society of assassins. We learn more about their codes, ethics, and processes – as well as diving a little more into theirs and John’s history. While the theme of this film is more difficult to place than previous installments, stakes are getting higher but Wick as a character struggles to grow in complexity. So yes, this film isn’t perfect. More could have been done to create emotionality for Wick as a character, or at least, provide a deeper context on his tragic history so we have something more to work with. This is a film fueled entirely by its astounding action sequence and legendary anti-hero, a good story line would simply be a bonus.
Parabellum shines as a technical marvel by utilising lighting for tone, camera-work for atmosphere, choreography for immersion, and production design for innovation. The world’s aesthetic is grounded by its use of colour that makes the action sequences so much more exciting and vivid, from its uses of blues or yellows, it always makes sure the audience feels present. The cinematography is cleaner than the previous films as the composition of the frames generate tension and intensity in its image while flowing with immense energy.
Camera-movement flows seamlessly inside its action scenes and the editing allows for the film to holds its shots for about 4-5 seconds which allow for the pulse-pounding action to generate an atmosphere that allows the audience to break from their reality and fall into the Wick-verse. The choreography involves a limitless array of dedicated stuntmen and stunning sequences which somehow, makes all the moving parts work together in one shot; such as dogs attacking stuntmen in the midst of gun shootouts. It is clear that Stahelski and his stunt team have put a lot of effort into every sequence as it shows details of John Wicks reloading speed, spatial awareness and utilising the unique aspects of the environment to gain the advantage in the fight.
Production designer Kevin Kavanaugh presents an endless line-up of creative environments such as stables, antique stores, underwater locations, and glass houses. The changing environments make sure the action does not feel repetitive and designed to be visually appealing for the viewer, however, the best usage of the set design is displaying John Wicks ability to adapt to any environment showcasing Keanu Reeves playing the world’s best assassin.
The score is definitely more grounded in the universe in the third outing, as it feels very suited to the world that has been set-up and elevates the scenes that it is present in. The true nature of the film’s usage of sound is its establishment in the soundscape which has a striking synergy with the visual component of the film. While the soundscape does not have emotional qualities to it, it features aesthetic qualities that evoke the sense of being inside that environment witnessing what is happening on-screen. There are moments when the sound feels inconsistent in comparison to the sum of its parts and slightly exaggerated at brief points in the film, however, it is an enthralling experience that is backed in its masterfully executed visual element.
John Wick: Parabellum came back with improvements on every technical level. Taking what was strong about the previous film and amplifying it to new heights. This is the process that director Chad Stahelski seemingly takes with each successive film he is making. With each film his mastery of the camera and the structure as a whole is tightened and refined. Everything is improved upon and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for audiences in future projects. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum roars back in style; packing sleeker visuals and hyper-innovative action sequences, proving that its bite is as vicious as its bark.