Wesley R. Ball’s review published on Letterboxd:
Chad Stahelski, the stuntman-cum-action film director responsible for bringing Keanu Reeves back into the spotlight, has been quite busy lately redefining the genre he is so clearly familiar with and works with so well. With the latest installment in the wildly popular John Wick franchise- appropriately titled Parabellum- he finds himself pushing the boundaries of just about every corner of the genre imaginable. With each action franchise from the last couple of decades, there has always been one standout entry that just absolutely somehow magnifies itself over all the other installments. Mad Max has Fury Road, James Bond has Skyfall, Mission Impossible has Fallout- and now John Wick joins those ranks with Parabellum, a glorious celebration of ultraviolence that absolutely pushes the limits of what the R rating allows. There is absolutely no way this could have been released unscathed in its current condition fifteen years ago- its nigh nonstop cavalcade of carnage rivals that of The Raid 2 and does so with such grace and panache that I can't help but marvel at its existence.
It leaves even more questions than answers, but that's always what made the John Wick films so delightful. The mystery behind every character and their connections to one another. Their shadowy pasts and what they had to do to get to their current circumstances. A television series has been in the works for a few years now that's supposed to focus on the events before the first film, tapping into what Wick's "impossible task" was that got him out of the game. Honestly, I think that will somewhat ruin the whole point of the franchise. Not only will it be unable to match the sheer audacity of Stahelski and Leitch's jaw-dropping stunt sequences, but the aura of mystery behind everyone and everything will be lifted, essentially marring what great minimal amount of backstory was ever given to everyone. I like hearing people talk about "the impossible task," but I don't want to know what it was, or then it wouldn't have been impossible, now would it?
If Chapter 2 was a Western, then Parabellum is a martial arts action flick. Make no mistake, there's enough bullets flying around to supply a small army for a legitimate war, but the antagonist this round finds itself in lesser-known low-budget action star Mark Dacascos, of Drive (no, not that one) and Brotherhood of the Wolf fame. He supplies an outstanding performance as Wick's rival, an adversary finally worthy of going one-on-one with the legendary Baba Yaga himself. In a world that seems to be populated almost exclusively with assassins and emissaries of the fabled High Table, seemingly everyone is out for Wick's head. Bad news for John, better news for audiences; as these were some of the most mesmerizing action sequences ever committed to film.
Parabellum proudly wears its inspirations on its sleeves. There's a clear parallel, for instance, between one brightly-colored fight sequence and a certain scuffle between one James Bond and a sniper on a dark night in Shanghai. If there's one thing these films do right, it's how to make their fights' sets some of the most elaborate and gorgeously architectured structures that can be found in action films. It's purely nonsensical, but somehow perfectly befitting for the series and continues to evolve the films into what they were meant to become.
The more I dive into the rabbit hole that is the John Wick films, the more fascinating its unanswered questions become. Sporting shaky alliances, unmentionable pasts, elaborate allegiances, and a code that is absolutely unbreakable; I'm thinking that Keanu has really been hitting his stride lately with these movies. Maybe it's not quite to the levels of Fury Road's practicalities, but Parabellum should become a new benchmark for the future of its genre. I don't even know if I'm more angry or excited at the prospect of at least one more of these films, but one thing's for sure: I'll be there opening night to watch Keanu's dog-loving hitman kill everyone and everything that moves towards him without a moment of hesitation.
I just want Keanu Reeves to live forever.