John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum movie cast: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Halle Berry, Anjelica Huston, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum movie director: Chad Stahelski
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum movie rating: 2 stars
Somewhere in the middle of the Moroccan desert resides the ‘Elder’, who is “higher” than the ‘High Table’, which is behind all the bloodbath across the world in the John Wick films. Parabellum revels in such associations, with the Elder dressed in flowing brocade silk robes in a tent in the hot sand, Sofia (Berry, wasted) surrounding herself with Moroccan knick-knacks in Casablanca, and a lot of the hand-to-hand combats in the film not just involving East Asian-origin actors but also happening in Chinese quarters.
Talking of hand-to-hand, the John Wick series, directed by former stunt man (The Matrix) Stahelski believes in not pulling any punches, or keeping a count, or showing any mercy. People are shot through the head, pierced through the head, axed through the head; alternatively have their necks snapped against a book (that would be a first), or under a toppled motorcycle, or down a fall from a building; more alternatively, be kicked dead by a horse; and even more alternatively, be chewed to death by ferocious German Shepherds.
You see, having broken one High Table rule regarding safe zones, Wick is on the run with a $14 million bounty on his head. That means killers of all shapes, sizes, affiliations, nationalities and races, are prowling the streets to try to butcher him. Despite the body count that piles up — has to be some kind of record — they keep coming rather than devise a joint, cohesive gathbandhan.
Reeves is at his fighting best, making the most of his long locks, his impeccable suit that never comes off (even in the desert), and his talent for action sequences. These are astonishingly choreographed sequences, longer than any you might have seen, remarkable as much for their utmost clarity and precision, as their absolute lack of hesitation in inflicting bodily injury. There is a hint here of the similarity of that jousting — fighting at its most carnal — with the discipline, poise and self-punishment of a ballet. Spurring along that thought is Huston in the brief but lingering role of the director, among other things, of one such ballet.
Dialogue is practically non-existent, particularly when it comes to Wick. When they talk, it is to say stuff like ‘Art is painful, life is suffering’… and proceed to brand a man with hot iron, or leave a chain of thought on “the true origin of the word assassin” halfway. Meanwhile, the High Table appears to operate from an office peopled entirely by tattooed young men and women who keep straight face through declarations such as Wick being made “excommunicado” (hence the open season on him) to places being “desecrated” to using the rotary phone to communicate while fooling around with the latest guns.
The scriptwriters fiddle with the idea of authority, independence, control, and choice. But wisely, don’t tax themselves too much, sticking to the essential purpose of this franchise — showcasing Reeves at his best.
And yet, there is a character that looks very much like his most memorable role, of Neo in Matrix, who upstages them all. Dillon plays the ‘Adjudicator’, who as the mediator between the High Table and offenders such as Wick, only has to walk into a room in her heeled boots, gloves in one hand, a cryptic smile, demanding “fealty”, to send shivers down the spine. None of that knife throwing, gun shooting for her.
Parabellum, for all of us wondering, is Latin for “to prepare for war”, with the men led by Winston (a suave McShane) convinced that this is what is required “for peace”. McShane reprises his role here of manager of the Continental Hotel, New York, a place of great importance for the High Table. But as the men war, the Adjudicator knows what ultimately begets peace. She suggests a “parley”.
P.S.: Before his own killing spree, for a brief moment, Wick appears to have a thought. “What is the point of $14 million if you won’t live to enjoy it,” he asks one of his assaulters. What indeed?