Release: 16th September 2019
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
In this third instalment of the adrenaline-fuelled action franchise, super-assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) returns with a $14 million price tag on his head and an army of bounty-hunting killers on his trail. After killing a member of the shadowy international assassin’s guild, the High Table, John Wick is excommunicado, but the world’s most ruthless hit men and women await his every turn.)
Who would have thought that in 2014 when Keanu Reeves starred in a shlock action film about a man avenging a dead dog, we’d be here 3 films later celebrating one of the great action franchises of this age!
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is as nutty as its title, and without a doubt the most audacious film Keanu may have ever starred in. From library fights with a giant, to using horses as a weapon, there is little to reference here that doesn’t sound like a cocaine fuelled fever dream. At the centre of this madness is stuntman-turned-director, Chad Stahelski, a man who has somehow managed to combine two passions of directing and fighting into a legitimate art form. One particular moment that proves Stahelski is not messing around is a stedicam shot that involves dogs, assassins, explosions, gunplay, fist fights and two protagonists, that never once loses its sense of time, space or direction. It is a seemingly effortless 10 segment that shows something looks easy when it is done right.
Just as impressive as Stahelski’s direction is Dan Lausten’s cinematography. If you thought the hall of mirrors scene in Enter the Dragon was a technical feat, then hold on to your wig, because the glass cube showdown is a masterclass in lighting and camera placement. The John Wick team make no bones about acknowledging the heavy influence Asian cinema has on these films, and no more is that evident than when you are watching Keanu Reeves fight ninjas in a neon-trimmed house of glass. Elsewhere, Lausten makes the most of the film deep texture and colour palette, by creating a world of heavy blues, jazzy greens and sexy reds. With the 4K presentation, in particular, the blacks are so deep that they almost absorb light. John Wick’s world is one that deserves bold treatment of its aesthetics, and this 4K disc definitely delivers.
Finally, we come to John Wick himself, Keanu Reeves. At 50+ years old, he is experiencing something of a career renaissance here; the next chapter of Neo, if you will. Yes, his acting is still limited, but he IS John Wick. This is a franchise that prides itself on the physicality and authenticity of its violence, and Reeves is clearly one tough cookie. Dedicated and continually nursing some form of gash or wound, he’s is a believably grizzled tough guy. Newcomer Halle Berry, meanwhile, is still hammy as all hell, but an utter beast in the ass kicking department. Watch the special features that accompany the film, and you’ll reach a new level of appreciation for what she achieved here.
But for all of its insane knife fights in museums and sword fights on motorcycles, John Wick 3, like its predecessors, does suffer from a lack of distinct plot. Yes, some intense world building takes place, and we are at least offered new textures with ‘The Adjudicator’, but it is hard to really care about any of the characters, or at times even know who is who; which means emotion is missing from the core of the film. As a result, it is hard to feel any tension or sense of risk during any of the action scenes. Yes, they are amazing to watch, but it is just a single note of excitement. This is John Wick’s achilles heel, because there are only so many ways you can kill a generic henchman. With John Wick 4 on the horizon, it is time to consider when old ‘Baba Yaga’ will finally outstay his welcome. Unless, of course, they can find a way to use the ultimate weapon; a good plot.
Film Grade: B-
If you can find a part of production not covered here, there you are an ungrateful swine. It may not all be super engaging, but Stahelski and his team leave no stone un-turned and lay every secret on the table.
Special Features Grade: A
Although the franchise is close to diminishing returns if it doesn’t find purpose, this is still a roller coaster of bumps and bruises. The special features on offer are very impressive, and the 4K transfer is a treat.