Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Keanu Reeves returns as the dog-loving titular character in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Reeves brought his brooding, ex-assassin John Wick to the big screen the first time in 2014 to murder the bad guys who killed his dog — I swear; this was not only the likely elevator pitch but also the plot of a multi-million dollar motion picture.

But since violent John Wick made more than four times its $20 million dollar budget, we were graced with super-violent John Wick: Chapter 2 in 2017, in which Wick breaks the rules of some assassin’s code whilst repaying a debt, resulting in a sizable bounty placed on his head.

And since Chapter 2 made more than twice what the original did, that’s all you need to know to be caught up for super-duper violent John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum… except that defines “parabellum” as a noun — a type of German-made semiautomatic pistol or machine gun — with an origin from the early 20th century. It’s from the Latin para bellum (from para! ‘prepare!’ (imperative of parare ) + bellum ‘war’) in the phrase si vis pacem, para bellum ‘if you want peace, prepare for war’.

But John is unprepared for what awaits him in Parabellum, which picks up shortly after the bounty has been levied and he is disavowed from all the usual courtesies of support and safe houses he normally enjoys as a card-carrying member of assassins governed by a mysterious body known as The High Table. So now basically every assassin with student loans wants that cool $14 million in exchange for Wick’s head. Cue the ultra-violence!

Parabellum is not my cup of tea personally, but still, I admit that what it does it does well. It has more of everything from the first two: violence, fight sequences, all manner of bad-assery and dogs. It is so absolutely over the top and relentlessly violent it’s almost an art form. If you drank from the earlier mugs of Wick 1 and 2, Wick 3 is likely to be the hair of the dog that bit you.

But it’s also long in the tooth, with multiple repetitive fight sequences rather than inventive ones (like an early fight in a library in which a book is truly mightier than the sword), zero plot, rules that barely matter, and no stakes. And although John Wick never misses, his 2nd sequel certainly does; blowing numerous opportunities for more humor, and more imaginative fight sequences.

Which is a shame since a nod to the camera while the arm is being broken is why you see a Wick flick. It needed more one-liners and winks because Parabellum works best when absurd and not taking itself too seriously… because you just can’t take it seriously.

But if an obscene amount of outlandish violence is your cup of tea… then John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is probably your drink of choice even though it’s been better. But don’t worry; maybe it will get the mix just right in its 3rd sequel.

  • John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
  • Director: Chad Stahelski
  • Distributor: Lionsgate/Summit
  • Genre: Action
  • Runtime: 2 hrs. 10 min.
  • MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong violence, and some language

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Richard Bonaduce
Richard Bonaduce
Rich Bonaduce was born and raised in Pennsylvania but has lived in Utah now for half his life. In addition to being a regular contributor as a Film Critic for Salt Lake Magazine, he is also the Film Critic and Entertainment reporter for FOX13’s weekly morning show Good Day Utah. He’s also a drummer in local band “Mojave Rose,” and is much shorter than he appears on television. You've been warned.

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