John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
Going into this film I can't say I was on the same train that most people were when it comes to the John Wick franchise. Where I have enjoyed the other two films especially when compared to the mediocre action movies that are normally released but neither made it anywhere near my best of the year list and neither really stuck out to me in the long run. Going into this new film I watched both the previous entries back to back and felt more appreciation for the world they started to build but still none of them overly impressed me. Therefore I wasn't expecting anything more from Parabellum which is probably why I was blown away by this movie. Similar to what Fallout was for the Mission Impossible series this film completely got me on board with this franchise and easily will be one of my favorite action movies of the year entirely.
And first focusing on that action, just like in the previous John Wick it is really well crafted. The thing that makes the action in this movie stand out is how over the top it can be, but never in a way that feels distracting. The action is surprisingly grounded for action scenes of such scale. Despite the number of people or weapons in each scene it never feels like it loses focus or believability. It is able to have such a control over this balance of being absolutely crazy action while also not breaking the world around it. It is one of the most impressive aspects of this movie for me and I hope they are continuing this as the franchise goes on compared to other franchises like The Fast and the Furious who has thrown logic and believability out the window in the later additions. I also love how big the enemy feels in this film, coming out of the previous movie it really becomes John Wick vs everyone as he is declared excommunicado and anyone who tries to help him in the slightest will be punished. It feels overwhelming as everyone is out to get him and nowhere feels safe which is the perfect tone and feeling for this movie to have. My only concern about the action is that I don't know how they are going to top it in the future.
Still though the best part of this movie and this franchise, in my opinion, is its world and mythology. As this overall story gets bigger and bigger they are doing a great job at revealing and setting up the larger players in this already interesting world. It is great seeing this story evolve and characters face the consequences of their actions from these higher powers and without getting into spoilers I am really excited about seeing them come into play in future sequels. The fact that I am excited at all for the sequels also is a really good thing about this series, normally once you get past the 3rd film in a franchise normally the story goes of the rails and it can easily feel like the filmmakers are beating a dead horse but that is far from the case with the John Wick franchise. The story has been so well put together and well thought out up to this point. Each film as the titles suggest feel like a different chapter in a book and I really believe that by the time the book is finished it's going to be one complete story of excellent quality.
Visually this movie is also spectacular, I have been pretty open that a neon big city at night is my #1 aesthetic (one of the reasons I love the Blade Runner films so much) and this movie does an incredible job at using this aesthetic. There are so many amazing shots not just in New York City but in every environment we explore. The cinematography is stellar but it really is the production design that propelled it to the next level. As briefly seen in the trailer there is a portion of this movie that takes place in a mirrored filled room with a huge LED screen projecting unique vibrant colors and designs that it one of my all-time favorite action sets. Sets like this are throughout this movie and not only unique but they also bring real artistic value to this movie. This also comes from there use of a score, or more how they didn't use one. Especially in action scenes, it is common for there to be no sounds other than gunshots and grunting which not only helped the action feel grounded but also made these scenes stand out more. Just how Mission: Impossible – Fallout went beyond being just an action movie I feel the same here. This is not just another edition in this action franchise but it becomes something else, something more. As far as negatives with this movie there are a few minor things. I think the character of John Wick as he explores his own personal philosophy of why he wants to live and what death means to him can be a little uninteresting. These are really deep questions but his answers feel a little basic, especially considering we have spent 2 whole movies already dealing with his grief over his wife. It will always be apart of him and timeline wise it is still very raw for his character, but it doesn't leave nearly the same impact that it did before and it lacks enough of a commentary to become something really new. I also did not like Mark Dacascos in this movie. His performance lacks really any direction and it feels like he never knows who he is trying to be. Every scene the energy he is bringing to the movie changes and from a character standpoint, he was not built up nearly well enough to take the role of the main antagonist in the final battle.
Still, I would be lying if I didn't say that this was one of my favorite movies of the year. This is the movie that sold me on the John Wick franchise and I cannot wait for it to continue. If you love action and have enjoyed the previous John Wick films this is must see. I am sure eventually John Wick will die, but it doesn't seem like that is coming anytime soon.