I’ve never quite got on board with the John Wick series. I found the first film entertaining but slight, while Chapter 2’s expansion of the mythology eroded my enthusiasm with self-seriousness and overdone stylisation. Thankfully, Parabellum – Latin for ‘prepare for war’, suitably enough – has me back on board this murder train.
The mythology remains dense, the narrative is still confusing, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) remains mostly mute. What elevates Parabellum above its predecessors is a sharp sense of humour.
The action is as well-choreographed and brutal as ever, but the tiny flashes of humour from previous films are upgraded into broad swathes here. The action sequences have a surprise or gag to provoke a laugh or gasp (the exception is the monotonous attack dog sequence in Casablanca, featuring Halle Berry: an endless stream of close-quarters headshots).
With Reeves tasked with grim-faced taciturnity, he’s surrounded by cast members who get to have a bit more fun. Most notably, the addition of B-movie mainstay Mark Dacascos moves the film into another gear; Dacascos holds his own against Wick in some impressive fights, but most notably boasts a childish mischievousness that ensures the fun doesn’t bleed out as it did in Chapter 2.