John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum, picks up where the previous film left off. In John Wick Chapter 2 the world of the assassins inhabited by Wick was expanded. Though Wick was a legend in that murky world, he was still required to adhere to a code. He feels honour bound to break that code by a blood oath and is excommunicated by the High Table.
We see Wick running through the streets of a rain-soaked New York. He heads to the library where he has some items he needs to retrieve. It is five forty and at six the order for is excommunication comes into effect. With a bounty of fourteen million dollars on his head, Wick is a target for every killer in New York.
He is attacked even before the bounty comes into effect by Ernest (Boban Marjanovic), an assassin who reasons that as they are so close to the bounty’s deadline, it does not matter. Wick kills him. Ernest stabs Wick during the altercation and Wick has to seek medical help from the Doctor (Randall Duk Kim).
The Doctor is reluctant to treat him, as there are only five minutes until his bounty is in effect, Wick persuades him to patch him up. The excommunication comes into effect whilst the doctor is stitching. Wick is forced to finish the stitches himself.
Wick is now a live target for every assassin in New York and there are many. He needs to get to The Director (Anjelica Huston), a severe Belarusian woman who runs a ballet school as well as commanding a cabal of eastern European gangsters. Fighting his way across New York, he gets to see the Director. He asks her to grant him passage to Casablanca.
After initially refusing, she gets him to Casablanca. In Casablanca, he goes to see Sofia (Halle Berry), who is the boss of the Casablancan branch of the Continental, a worldwide organisation of hotels that are safe havens for assassins.
She is not especially glad to see him but owes him a blood oath and so reluctantly helps him. He wants to see the Elder (Said Taghmaoui), boss of the High Table. Sofia takes him to see Berrada (Jerome Flynn). Berrada tells Wick how he might get to see the Elder. In exchange for the information, he wants Sofia to give him one of her dogs. She refuses. He shoots the dog. Sofia does not take it well and she and Wick are forced to fight their way out of Berrada’s fortress.
Back in New York, the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) has turned up at the Continental. She informs the manager, Winston (Ian McShane) that he has seven days to leave as, due to his co-operation with Wick, his position has been revoked. Winston understands.
The Adjudicator goes to see Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne). He is also told he has seven days to resign his position. King is not so conciliatory. Wick is in the desert searching for the Elder, after a day of walking, he collapses, unconscious with dehydration and battle wounds. He is found by the Elder’s people and taken to him.
The Elder asks what he wants, Wick tells him that he is prepared to pay a penance to live. The Elder tells him that he can return to the fold if he kills Winston.
The Adjudicator goes to see another elite assassin, Zero (Mark Dacascos). He is to help track down Wick, plus some other task. His crew storm the Director’s theatre, killing many of her men, so as the Adjudicator can see her. She is made to pay penance, for assisting Wick, by being stabbed through both hands. The Adjudicator visits Bowery King again and has Zero punish him with seven cuts, leaving him lying injured on the roof.
Wick returns to New York and is protected by some of Zero’s men, only to be later attacked by them. He gets to the Continental where assassins are still forbidden from operating. He goes to see Winston. Winston knows he has been sent to kill him but persuades him that he has another option.
The Adjudicator realises that Winston is not going to give up the Continental. She strips the hotel of protection and calls in more assassins. They go to war with Wick, who is helped by the hotel concierge, Charon (Lance Reddick).
The Adjudicator, realising that Winston will not relinquish the hotel, comes to an accord. She asks him what is he going to do about Wick. Winston shoots him and Wick falls off of the roof.
When the Adjudicator is leaving, she notices that Wick has disappeared.
Tick Tock Man (Jason Mantzoukas), right-hand man to Bowery King, finds Wick and brings him to King. King asks if Wick is ready to wage war on the High Table. Wick says he is. The end.
The third film in the Wick series sees even more of an expansion on the world that Wick and his ilk inhabit. Directed again by Chad Stahelski, John Wick 3: Parabellum is a stuntman’s wet dream. Stahelski, a stuntman himself and director on the first two instalments of the series, really brings an eye for action to films.
The first John Wick film, with its simple story and clear, non-political premise, was a breath of fresh air to the action genre, with the close combat fight choreography and gunplay. The second film introduced the mythology of the assassins’ world and the politics and code under which it operated, expanding on the first outing. The third film adheres to the code laid down in the second film, with the human elements; the friendships that Wick has built up over the years and the favours he has accrued, being what allow him to avoid certain death.
Visually, the film is stunning. The colours are neon bright and pin sharp, especially when set in New York. The film just looks magnificent and stylish, like an extremely violent Bond film. At over two hours, the pacing is relentless, picking up from the final scene of the second film, Wick is fighting for his life with fist, knives and guns for most of the runtime, a breathless ballet of violence.
The script by David Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins and Marc Abrams, with the story by Kolstad, is a boy’s own work of fiction. It is non-stop action, with the few conversations that take place only serving to move on to the next action set piece. That is not to say there is no story or that the story is secondary, it just that, in the case of the Wick films, the story is there to serve the action and not the other way around.
John Wick 3: Parabellum gives nods to Enter The Dragon, Heat, and possibly every Chinese martial arts film ever made. It sets a standard for action films that is not only hard to match but will be very hard to surpass.
It is rare that a trilogy produces three great films, you might have two very good films and one great one or, more often than not, one film of the films are great and the other two are sold on the strength of that hit.
That is not the case with the Wick films, each not necessarily better than its predecessor but definitely more ambitious. John Wick 3: Parabellum is a brilliant addition to the Wick cannon. If you enjoyed the first two, you will love the third instalment.