There is a fair bit of ballet imagery within John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum which should not be a surprise to loyal fans in the series. Director Chad Stahelski has brought a ballet style sensibility to his action driven franchise that is both thrilling and refreshing. Just as a dancer must understand how every contour of their body impacts the visual story being told, Stahelski ensures that each action sequence is choreographed with precision.
Much like the ballerina who repeatedly stumbles but gets back up to try again, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) refuses to go gentle into that good night. He is essentially the energizer bunny of action films; he takes his lumps but keeps going and going.
Picking up right where Chapter 2 left off, Wick is on the run after being excommunicated for breaking the rules and killing a High Table member on Continental grounds. Given an hour head start by Continental manager Winston (Ian McShane) before the $14 million bounty kicks in, the famed hitman has few options left.
Since New York is a hot bed for assassins, where everyone from a chef to a taxicab driver could be a killer in disguise, Wick decides to call in debts owed to him. This includes reaching out to The Director (Anjelica Huston), a powerful figure who runs a school where Wick spent time as a youth, and fellow assassin Sofia (Halle Berry), whose daughter Wick help save at one point. While Wick tries to find a way to make amends with the High Table, others are dealing with the fallout of his actions.
When the High Table sends The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) to restore order in the criminal underworld, those who broke protocol to help Wick, such as Winston, The Director, and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), are forced to reassess their allegiances. Wanting to quickly fix this situation, The Adjudicator enlists the help of elite killer Zero (Mark Dacascos) to dispose of Wick once and for all.
Offering more insight into the intricacies of the world the characters exist in, Stahelski’s film feels more realized than the previous installment. He touches on the origins and importance of the gold coins, the hierarchy of power, and a glimpse into Wick’s past. All of this provides a nice foundation for the action scenes to build on.
Of course, the action is what makes this franchise so engaging. One does not go into a John Wick film for character depth, though there is some, but for its masterful blend of choreographed violence and humour. The sheer volume of set pieces, locations, props and number of people involved is stunning. Whether he is showcasing a brilliant knife fight, a thrilling battle on motorcycles or incorporating horses in inventive ways, Stahelski pushes the boundaries of action to exciting new heights.
Stahelski and his entire stunt team understand that each action set piece is a grand performance, an entertaining dance of violence that makes John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum one of the best action films of the year.