The world’s most unlikely action franchise strikes again. And while the popularity is riding high, the strike is slow and frankly, old.
Parabellum kicks off right after Chapter 2. John, running through New York with his dog, one hour before he is persona non grata in the assassin world. A world more populated and more diverse than an edgy liberal arts college. How’s he going to get through it this time? Obviously, he’s going to murder several Chick-fil-a’s worth of people. But he’s got some friends in random places that might go out on a limb for him.
If you’re here for just the action, Parabellum offers it up in three distinct sections. The first of which is the best – involving knife throwing and a horse race. It’s the most visually creative and distinct. The second can be called the “dog” section. Which, while has some great action shots of German Shepherds going all out, is the cinematic equivalent of spreading oatmeal all over your face. You’re not eating anything and even if you did, it’s oatmeal. The third section switches it up a little bit but devolves into the same fight in Chapter 2. You know, the hall of mirrors? Guys, you already did that fight. Judging by Wick’s expression, he knows it too. The overall experience is a movie that hooks you, but never reels you in.
As far as story goes, are you here for story? Really? Okay, well it’s shit. After expanding on the world and populating it in Chapter 2, Parabellum decides to give Wick even less lines and even less agency. He’s trying to clear his name with a random bedouin so that he can live and remember his wife. I thought he already wanted to kill them all? Remember? Parabellum is an entire set up, that was already set up, for Wick to want to kill the high table. This is not the finish of a trilogy, it’s another episode in a serial and they tricked you into watching it.
Wick is slowing down as well. Bad guys keep giving him second chances. Beyond the first fight, the distinct John Wick style of natural badassery looks replaced with choreography. I mean, of course it is, but it didn’t look like a dance before. It looked brutal. Raw. Now, it’s a little tame. Letting old Keanu remember the next move. It’s a video game movie filled with press ‘x’ not to die. I don’t need Wick to mow down 20 bad guys to get me excited, I need him to kill one bad guy in a crazy way. Don’t copy paste the same scene over and over again.
Parabellum is still fun action. And it at least is trying to give you an enjoyable action experience. Fights are smooth, you can follow them, and they really do care if you know where characters are in a sequence. Bravo for that.
2.5 out of 4 stars