It feels like just yesterday that we were all sitting around and wondering where the heck this John Wick fellow came from. One of our truly great modern action franchises got a very humble start and managed to slip under the radar before we all caught on and realized Hollywood had found a way to use every single one of the skills in Keanu Reeves' repertoire perfectly. No longer. We've all caught on and everyone is dying to know, did they somehow managed to strike gold three times in a row? The answer is, quite simply, yes, as director Chad Stahelski has continued to assert himself as the director to beat in the action game with John Wick 3: Parabellum.
Fans of the franchise will surely recall that our dear hitman Mr. Wick was in a bad spot at the end of the last movie, as he's found himself "excommunicado" from The Continental. Now, he's got a $14 million price tag on his head, with every single hitman and woman in New York, if not the world, looking to cash in. Wick has an hour head start before the contract kicks in and that's where we pick up, moments after Chapter 2 concluded. Wick must fight his way out of New York and try to find a way to square things with the High Table in order to save his own life. In order to do that, he's going to have to stack up a lot of bodies and call in every favor he's got to even have the slightest chance at survival.
After the first two movies, it felt, in some ways, like it would be almost impossible to up the stakes in a third entry without feeling like it jumps the shark at some point. Amazingly, this installment dodges that bullet while also upping the ante in every single way. There's a line that Nick Offerman's character Ron Swanson says at one point in the show Parks and Recreation; "I know what I'm about, son." I feel like that's this movie's entire M.O. This is a franchise that knows exactly what it is and it continues to execute it with precision, much like one of Mr. Wick's headshots.
There are movies that deliver top-quality action. The John Wick movies are amongst the best of the best in that category, there's no question. But some of the stuff that Chad Stahelski, a former stunt coordinator turned director, manages to do here are truly bananas, even by this series' very high standards. There are a couple of sequences that are Mad Max: Fury Road levels of "What the hell just happened? How is that even possible?!" From a pure, blistering entertainment standpoint, it's hard to do better.
Part of what helps to set these movies apart from other top-tier action flicks is its worldbuilding. This bizarre underworld of assassins guided by a code of conduct, order and strict rules. That world is further explored here, though not over-explained. It maintains enough intrigue to still be interesting, yet gives us enough additional insight as to satiate curiosity. John Wick 3 continues to walk that fine line rather well.
Keanu Reeves is a man that seems to excel when the material agrees with his best sensibilities as a performer. To put it mildly, this material really agrees with him. This is the best version of Reeves. His dedication is staggering. The ensemble, including returning favorites such as Ian McShane and Lance Reddick, are terrific as ever. Others, such as Mark Dacascos, serve as welcome new additions. Halle Berry, specifically, turns in an incredible and immensely entertaining performance here. And her dogs are a very welcome addition in the pooch department. But really, it's the entire stunt team and performers that deserve to be applauded. It's downright stunning what they've managed to put together here and if the Oscars decide to add a stunt category before the 2020 awards, be ready to hand the award to these fine folks.
At moments, this particular entry feels a little long in the tooth and like it's meandering a bit. A small price to pay for the thrills contained within. Ultimately, it's becoming easier and easier to just stay at home and watch a movie on Netflix. People need a good reason to actually get out of the house and shell out to go see a movie at a theater. John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum, I assure you, is one of those spectacle-laden, smile-inducing reasons to do just that. Lionsgate has cemented this as the truly outstanding action trilogy in modern cinema.