John Wick 3: Parabellum

In Cinemas Now

Every action has consequences.

Keanu, writer Derek Kolstad and director Chad Stahelski return for the third installment in the neo-noir action thriller series, with Halle Berry and Anjelica Huston joining the cast.

John Wick (Reeves) is on the run for two reasons: he’s being hunted for a global $14 million dollar open contract on his life, and for breaking a central rule: taking a life on Continental Hotel grounds. John should have already been executed, except the Continental’s manager, Winston, has given him a one-hour grace period before he's “Excommunicado” – membership revoked, banned from all services and cut off from other members. John uses the service industry to stay alive as he fights and kills his way out of New York City.

The best R-rated American action movie franchise of recent years has delivered the goods again. John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is not the best of the series so far, but it's still miles ahead of pretty much anything else. While there may be less headshots in this third outing, the inventiveness has been notched up and it's a bloody good time.

The mythology of the Continental Hotel and High Table is further expanded, with more decorative coins, crucifixes and other meaningful trinkets getting handed out. The humour in just how chivalrous the murder industry players are is growing a little thin, but if you buy into the assassin universe of these movies you'll dig its expansion here.

Of course, the comic book-esque world-building of the John Wick movies is just part of their appeal. They're primarily beloved for the virtuoso action direction and Parabellum does not disappoint on this front—but it also doesn't raise the bar quite enough.

Rest assured, there's some blade-based combat early on that has a very, very good chance of being the greatest fight scene of 2019. Things get dazzling and complicated as John Wick joins forces with Halle Berry and two amazing attack dogs to take out a large bunch of baddies. When those canines get to work, it's seriously thrilling, and they come after we've already enjoyed the sh-t out of seeing John Wick triggering horses to kick some foes to death.

Later on, however, the third act fights aren't quite as climactic as they should be. The first two films worked themselves up into orgiastic frenzies of gun-fu, whereas Parabellum goes more for big showdowns of fists and swords, along with a fun gun battle against a very heavily armoured squad. These are great, but not the next-level brilliance the film should've ended on.

Like Chapter 2 did a couple of years back, Parabellum ends abruptly with a tease for the next movie. Somehow that's not frustrating as it would be in other properties—indeed, I'm already very excited for how they top everything in Chapter 4.

Empire (UK)

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Combat-heavy pulp of the highest order, this is the most enjoyably over-the-top entry so far. Where else can you get samurai dogs and a Tarkovsky reference?

Hollywood Reporter

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An epic of choreographed mayhem that expands the Wickiverse in mostly pleasing ways, it is destined to satisfy fans of this surprise-hit franchise: If its ludicrous aspects bug you, what the hell are you doing here?

The Telegraph (UK)

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As relentless action sequels go, Parabellum stands comparison with The Raid 2, delivering a meaty set piece every reel or so, and not holding back with the flailing, mechanised slaughter.

Total Film (UK)

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If you thought Wick 2's turbo-powered takedowns could not be out-powered, think on: intermittent stumbles aside, Parabellum swiftly asserts itself as 2019's actioner to beat.

Variety (USA)

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Watching "John Wick 3" is an exercise of pure aesthetic desensitisation - the violence we see here is entirely removed from the reality of pain, or suffering, or fear, or desire, or triumph, or loss.

Vox

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Whatever it lacks in narrative intelligence it makes up abundantly in visual moxie, and in a medium that is first and foremost visual, that's what makes something great.

TimeOut (New York)

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Director Chad Stahelski is a fight-scene Fosse and Reeves is his Gwen Verdon: Parabellum takes the hall-of-mirrors high style of the second film and pushes it into overdrive.

NZ Herald (Dominic Corry)

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It's a more brutal and violent affair than the often elegant Chapter 2, but that doesn't feel accidental, and the set pieces are nothing less than transcendent.

Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)

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I still enjoyed pretty much every minute of John Wick 3, but there are enough fumbles here to suggest a franchise that is cashing in, when it should know when to quit.