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Film Review

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Directed by Chad Stahelski

In 2014, “John Wick” burst onto the scene as one of those seemingly quite simple ideas, in which somebody wrongs the wrong somebody. In this case an ex-hitman who values his car and dog more than most people. But there was more going on than just that, with the introduction of a shadowy support structure for assassins, centered around The Continental, a sanctuary hotel.

In 2017 with the straightforwardly named “John Wick: Chapter 2,” we found that The Continental was neither unique nor at the top of the food chain, as the command structure and rules of the assassins’ world became clearer and the temptation to break them became stronger.

2018’s “Hotel Artemis,” starring Jodie Foster as a nurse/manager of a similar hotel/clinic, felt very much as though it could have belonged in this same world, albeit perhaps a slightly advanced timeline.

Now, the set piece action sequences have expanded in an attempt to keep up with the ever expanding titles, as “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” also expands its writing pool from original scribe Derek Kolstad to a team of four. But this may also be because Kolstad is now busy with other projects, all involving killers, including a spinoff TV series titled “The Continental.”

It’s those set pieces that define this third chapter, including an early knife fight sequence that may only be flawed by being such a hard act to follow. Suddenly we’ve got chases with horses and motorcycles, combined or together, and an expansion of the earlier dog theme with an old friend of Wick’s, played by Halle Berry, who one-ups him in the canine count.

All of this is great fun, unless you’re not keen on violence and blood – in which case you may have walked into the wrong theater. Although there are a few details that are diminished by repetition. And what might have been one of the hardest scenes to choreograph, in which people and dogs fight hard in a Moroccan courtyard, feels a little too staged. This supposedly ordinary location just happens to look a lot like a canine assault course and in a film full of excesses, a little less ramp running and crotch biting might have been more.

But that doesn’t really detract from an ever expanding Wickiverse, in which we learn more about his background, and about the layers upon layers of the assassin hierarchy, the sheer volume of which makes you wonder if their victims might become an endangered species.

If you’re on your third outing by seeing “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” then it’s likely to leave you wanting more, on the screen at least if not on the marquee. Although the expanded screenwriting team is going to have to come up with new things for John Wick to ride and ever more creative ways for him to dispatch even more adversaries. Perhaps they could go with “John Wick: Chapter 4 – Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes – Even John Wickier.”

About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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