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CINEMA: Point Break

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JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 — PARABELLUM (Dir. by Chad Stahelski, 130 minutes)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is the third and surprisingly not final installment of the action franchise directed by Keanu Reeves’ Matrix stunt-double-turned-action-maestro Chad Stahelski. The film once again stars Reeves as the namesake Russian hitman who was first sent down this dark path of vengeance when a group of thugs not only stole his car, but killed the puppy that was gifted to him by his recently departed wife. About a week has passed in Wick’s world since his rampage began so far resulting in roughly 205 on-screen deaths. The hard thing about making a sequel to a film like this is not only the requisite BIGGER, BETTER, MORE, but where do you go from here? While John Wick 3 exceeds all criteria in a sequel that feels right up there with the original, its level of absolute carnage and excess makes it a hard/impossible act to follow.

Parabellum, taken from the famous 4th century Roman military quote “Si vis pacem, para bellum,” which means, “If you want peace, prepare for war” is very poignant given the fallout of John Wick 2. After killing a member of the High Table (which rules over this world of assassins) on the consecrated Continental grounds (No business is ever to take place on Continental grounds), Wick has now forfeited his life and is “excommunicado” from this world. If that wasn’t enough there is a 14 million dollar bounty on his head that has the unstoppable hitman also known as the “Baba Yaga” (translated in the film as Russian for “Boogeyman) on the run from everyone who is out to try to kill him — remember, the operative word here is “try.” Wick isn’t the only one in trouble here when the High Table sends an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) to hold accountable those that aided Wick in the previous film’s killing of one of their members. What this ends up being of course is bad news for anyone that crosses John Wick or any of his friends, as those that thought Chapter 2 was a master class in action cinema now have to raise the bar again two or three more notches.

Much like the first two films, there are three primary strengths to a John Wick film that this film is careful not to stray too far from. Firstly, it continues to cast great actors, especially strong women (Angelica Houston, Halle Berry) in strong roles which translate into interesting characters. Secondly, the world building here that is almost unheard of in action films, and finally the action set pieces that are often times breathtaking for both their choreography and horrific over the top violence. I watched this film with a packed house of action junkies like myself and it was audible to anyone listening that we were bearing witness to some of the most face-melting action committed to celluloid in recent memory. Its Wick’s ability to improvise in almost any given circumstance that delivers some of the film’s most gnarly kills, since any and everything is a weapon to John Wick, from library books to horses.

Like Mad Max: Fury Road, which was essentially a two-hour car chase, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is an adrenaline soaked two-hour fight sequence that somehow manages to top what we witnessed in Chapter 2. It’s a film that while light on story and character development still delivers a few more parcels of backstory on Wick himself to let us get a little closer to what birthed this unstoppable force. These details also work to further the world here that will no doubt live on in some other form once Wick’s story comes to its final conclusion. Parabellum is a flawlessly paced ass-kicking tour de force that will no doubt leave fans both exhilarated, exhausted and wondering what these guys could possibly do to keep this momentum going? I mean short of having Reeves showing up and personally punching everyone in the face who buys a ticket one by one. I mean we can wish, right?

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