John Wick is back! The unstoppable, stylish, killing machine is picking up where the second iteration finished; running for his life with his dog. A very good dog at that.
The film makes no attempt at having a slow burn for an introduction. Similarly to the first John Wick, the audience is thrown straight into the anxiety inducing action. Beginning with only an hour until the international contract on him goes live. He has to collect himself and make any preparations he can, before the fight of his life begins.
Time to Reload
As with any good sequel, the story has to escalate. In a lot of stories this usually means just a bigger bad guy or bigger Death Star-type endgame threat. For Parabellum it was expanding the world in which the story takes place, adding new depths to established characters and takes time to define Wick as a character a bit more as well.
In order to up the ante, for John Wick, not only is there a substantial contract out on him, bringing in any and every assassin available, the High Table has also sent their own kill squad. In a surprise twist, the High Table’s men are able to counter Wick’s usual two-tap technique, with armour. This certainly added a new spectacle for Keanu to show off some gymnastics of death.
Brothers in Arms
In this round he’s bringing something he didn’t have before; friends. This is both a blessing, for his character, and a curse, for the audience. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a good idea to introduce more allies to the runaway renegade. Also, I just believe there could’ve been a more interesting ally to introduce.
Wick’s friend, portrayed by Halle Berry, shows the reach of this organisation and helps to reaffirm that John, despite being a hitman, does in fact have a heart. He helped Berry’s child, and who can hate someone who helps children?
On the flip-side, an especially exquisite addition to Parabellum was the inclusion of the Concierge, from the Continental Hotel, displaying loyalty during the siege.
Charon was able to add levity in an otherwise grim scenario. The dude displayed his loyalty to the Manager and his willingness to do what he felt was right for John. Ten out ten; would like him as my concierge.
Parabellum is apparently the third instalment out of four for the franchise. At this point, considering the notion of the High Table has been in two films now, I would have expected a lot more time dedicated to fleshing them out. We still don’t really know what they want, why they’re in control or what their purpose is; besides being able to sanction enormous contracts.
Hopefully in the finale the other High Table members will make themselves apparent and more of this part of the story will be explained. As it currently stands, they’re just a faceless group who are real enough to be threatening and vague enough to be moulded to whatever, in the future.
Unfortunately, we are introduced to a liaison type moody bitch who adds nothing, much like Ruby Rose’s character in the previous film. They just can’t quite nail the side-boss.
Despite all this, the audience were introduced to the High Table’s mini-army which was a very nice feature. Though, I was definitely expecting to be exposed to more members of the esteemed Table. This was mostly so we can see their arrogance crumble during the next film or perhaps allow for character growth somewhere?
Death is Art
I absolutely adore the world in which these films take place. The amount of respect these high ranking assassins and their employers, as well as the hotel establishments, have for one another is palpable.
As is the running theme with these films; the executions are performed seamlessly. These judgements of death are nicely paced out, as to not fatigue the audience. The audience gets to witness the glory kill with a pen, again. On top of that, Wick throws in a book to boot as well. It was a weird execution, but glorious nonetheless.
Among the other continuations, Parabellum is illuminated with its artistic vision. From the colour pallet and fashion to the film score, it only misses a beat once, in trying to display a lavish side to this colourful underworld.
The beat comes in the form of an idea of exploring places around the globe which aren’t in line with the aesthetic. This thought certainly sounds like it could be intriguing, its execution, however, isn’t. I understand wanting to showcase off different cultural locations besides a metropolis, I do. For John Wick, a desert might not be the best place to put him. The dirt spectrum isn’t exactly pleasing on the eyes.
The entire plot revolves around neon lights, and modernism being merged with classical architecture. Sand just doesn’t match the style. And because sand doesn’t match the overall tone, the midpoint of the film becomes very jarring.
Onto the conclusion; is this installment, in the apparent quadrilogy, worth it? I would say so. It adds enough to the overall lore to feel worthy of being included. We got to see Wick’s reach across the world, even farther this time, we got to see how the High Table responds to this cross-stitch of rules and we find out where some people’s loyalties lie.
The first film which presented the world as fairly black and white has become a lot murkier and it’s all thanks to our protagonist. It’s pleasant to see how even in this macabre, yet suave world, there are a lot of grey areas.
There were only a few moments where I wasn’t fully entertained. These all took place in Morocco where it seemed like the film either ran out of budget or wanted to attempt to contrast the overtures to neon lighting. Whatever the reason, it didn’t really do it for me and it stuck out like a sore thumb. Which is a shame but hey ho.
One of the defining characteristics the John Wick films portray is that of reputation. The simple mantra of discipline and focus conquering all is a nice caveat from a lot of films that are splurged out. It is nice to see that this vision isn’t being lost.