John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum Review: Third Time's the Charm

Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski blasted their way into a hit action movie franchise with John Wick, and the character has arguably become the face of action movies in the years since his debut. With that kind of hype behind it, John Wick 3 is basically a test to see if Stahelski, Reeves, and company can top their own achievements with the series. Thankfully, the answer to that question is a resounding "Hell. Yeah."

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum picks up minutes after John Wick: Chapter 2's game-changing ending. In the previous film, John violated the rules of the assassin underworld by killing High Table member Santino D'Antonio, which leads to the infamous assassin being excommunicated from the High Table's order, and sent on the run with a contract hanging over his head. Not even the legendary "Baba Yaga" can take on every assassin in the world, and John quickly finds himself in the rare and vulnerable position of having to lean on old friends in order to survive. The question is: how strong are bonds of friendship when the entire world is gunning for you?

With Parabellum, director Chad Stahelski leans further than ever into what makes the John Wick series great, which is namely its slickly brutal action choreography. Parabellum succeeds by offering viewers a non-stop lineup of fun, innovative, and thrilling action stunt sequences; it basically cements the idea that John Wick is to the action genre what Final Destination is to horror. The beatdowns and kills of John Wick 3 are probably the best of the series, with the filmmakers seeming to realize that going over the top is pretty much a non-existent issue. There are fights set in locations filled with excessive amounts of weapons and/or armor, foot/vehicular chases with killer ninjas, and more of the sort of fare you'd expect from John Wick. But Parabellum takes things up another notch, incorporating animal actors into the action in some truly one-of-kind sequences that will have fans cheering and/or gasping in amazement.

No doubt the major highlights of Chapter 3 are the additions of Halle Berry as Sofia, an old acquaintance of John's who owes him a significant debt, and Iron Chef host Mark Dacascos as Zero, a ninja assassin obsessed with taking John down. Dacascos sheds his TV persona to play the most wonderfully weird and offbeat villain in the series so far, while Berry steps up to deliver a character who is every bit John's equal in both combat and trash talk. However, it's Sofia's canine partners that are the biggest scene-stealers in John Wick 3, and sequences where they fight in perfect tandem with Sofia incorporate some truly next-level animal stunt work. Returning characters like Ian McShane's Winston, Laurence Fishburne's Bowery King, and Lance Reddick's Concierge all get to chew much more scenery this time around, while new additions like Anjelica Huston, Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones) and Saïd Taghmaoui (Wonder Woman), add welcome gravitas to bit roles as major leaders of the underworld. If John Wick was a spotlight that has belonged solely to Keanu Reeves at the start, it's now one he's sharing with a growing ensemble of fan-favorite side characters.

Fans of the John Wick series are going to love Parabellum, from the fights down to the reveal of what that strange subtitle actually means. It's more of what fans love, done with more creativity, flair, and brutality than ever before, so action fans spending their money on a ticket will definitely get their money's worth.

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Rating: 5 out of 5

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum hits theaters this Friday. It is 2 hours and 10 minutes long, and "Rated R for pervasive strong violence, and some language."