The third installment of the John Wick franchise is, as director Chad Stahelski had said in a previous interview, “is not necessarily bigger than Chapter 2 but it is going to be more intense” (quoted from imdb.com). And that statement is true. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum begins just an hour after the events of ‘John Wick: Chapter 2” and the tireless killing machine, the assassin known as John Wick (played by an ageless Keanu Reeves), is on the run as the organization he was a part of is on the hunt for him for breaking the rules.
The film’s narrative is very simple: John Wick must fight every assassin out to get him while finding a way to remove the 14 million dollar bounty on his head.
In the two hour and ten minute running time, John Wick battles hordes and hordes of assassins in various settings and uses various methods of killing. Each action scene — and there is a whole lot — are all well-executed. They are hard hitting, well covered, and edited in such a way that the brutality is only matched by the sheer physicality of the actors and stuntmen on screen. It could even be some sort of barbaric dance if it were not so violent and gruesome.
The story is really quite simple but is further complicated when the High Table, the organization that runs the assassin network, doesn’t stop at coming after John Wick, but they also come after all those that help him — including the manager of The Continental, Winston (Ian McShane), who has helped in the previous films before, and the Bowery King (played by Laurence Fishburne). The tension is two-pronged as we are watching John Wick fight for his life, his options running out, while the Adjudicator (played wonderfully by Asia Kate Dillon) is closing in on all of Wick’s friends.
In order to have even the slightest chance of getting out of his predicament, John Wick calls upon past connections — a Russian mob boss (Anjelica Huston) and an assassin-turned-manager (Halle Berry) — people whose relationship with John Wick gives us a glimpse of the person he used to be before the events of ‘John Wick.’
Even if ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum’ feels less like a whole movie and more like an expanded third act of a bigger story, it’s an enjoyable two hours in the theater because it turns the John Wick franchise into an underdog story with a recurring theme of trying to break free from a larger power that is pulling all of the strings.
‘John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum’ operates in hyper-reality. As Stahelski fills all his street scenes — from New York to Morocco — with people, everywhere John turns there are people who are in one way or another a part of the High Table’s network. With the hordes of assassins chasing after John Wick, one begins to ask, “Is everyone in this reality an assassin and/or under The High Table’s command?”
But when you see action scene after action scene; with John Wick battling it out with the best of the best and taking inhuman amounts of damage and still coming out on top, we kind of understand that this is not to be taken seriously. In a sense, the hyper-reality, the extremes in fight choreography and brutality sort of escalates John Wick into that of mythology. It’s not even surprising that he is likened to the Baba Yaga, a Russian folklore of a frightening witch that takes your children and cannot be stopped.
This is a new mythology created by cinema — even the memes that have propped up over the years since the first John Wick movie came out shows how deeply ingrained this story and its main character is on the cultural mindset. This film becomes a representation of that mythologicalization of its lead character.
The High Table has declared war on John Wick and as Winston states on the trailer, “It seems like a fair fight.” And what a battle it is. At some point it doesn’t make sense but we don’t care because it’s enjoyable — this sense of being trapped by an authority that has total control of the world around you and all you have to do is push back. As myths go, we empathize with John Wick because we wish we could rebel just like him and do whatever it takes to gain our freedom.