In Latin, Parabellum means “prepare for war.” As the famous phrase goes, Si vis Pacem, Parabellum, or “If you want peace, prepare for war.” In John Wick’s case, there couldn’t be a more fitting title. For the 131 minute runtime, John Wick (Keanu Reeves)is continuously on the run, trying to dodge an inevitable war that is brewing.
John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum begins a few hours after the conclusion of John Wick 2. John has just killed someone on The Continental grounds, a big no-no in the assassin world, and is declared excommunicado. That means he’s denied any services or assistance and is now wanted by every assassin in the world for his $14 million bounty. With no one left to turn to, John must take on the High Table, the highest order of power in his world, while dodging every knife, gun, and book in his way.
Major characters such as Winston (Ian McShane), Bowery King (Lawrence Fishbourne) and Charon (Lance Reddick) reprise their roles as John Wick’s cheerleaders. However, a new villain has appeared in New York. Simply known as The Adjudicator, this mysterious individual (Asia Kate Dillon) arrives on behalf of the High Table, ready to punish anyone who assisted John Wick in his crimes. Beside them is Zero (Mark Dacascos), a highly trained assassin/part-time sushi chef who is low -key John’s biggest fan. While Zero is a suitable replacement for John Wick 2’s Common, The Adjudicator leaves a lot to be desired. They play the HR representative of the High Table, trying to do damage control after John’s screw-up. But their character ends up being pretty one-dimensional and lacking any depth.
One welcome addition to the team is Halle Berry’s Sofia, an ex-assassin who is the new head of the Casablanca Continental Hotel. While Berry’s chemistry with Reeves is great, the real relationship to marvel at is Berry’s relationship with her two ferocious pups. Wearing bulletproof vests, these two German Shepherds are ready to bite any groin that gets in their way. Berry can command them to run, attack, and even jump up buildings on her command like she’s in the Westminster Dog Show.
Where John Wick stumbles is trying to keep this complex world together. While John Wick 2 embraces this colorful underground world, Parabellum simply uses it as a stylistic background. We get glimpses of a Belarusian ballet/undercover child assassin training camp led by a tough-as-nails Anjelica Huston but nothing very substantial. The film quickly breezes through these scenes to hop back into the violence, leaving behind the opportunity to develop more lore. John Wick: Chapter 3 certainly knows it’s an action film and embraces its title but seems to forget what made it stand out.
That being said, director Chad Stahelski along with cinematographer Dan Laustsen, and production designer Kevin Kavanaugh give the audience vivid action scenes, each one unique from the other. From murdering someone with a book to engaging in a vintage knife fight, it seems that John is maxed out on his luck stat. And yet, that’s what makes it so great. The film revels in the absurd notion that this ordinary- looking man can take on five guys at once using either a knife or a horse.