Fresh on 4K: ‘JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM’ revs its mighty ultra HD engine

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM

Rated R, 130 minutes.
Director: Chad Stahelski
Cast: Keanu ReevesIan McShaneAsia Kate DillonAnjelica HustonHalle BerryLaurence FishburneMark DacascosLance ReddickJason Mantzoukas and Yayan Ruhian

Available Tuesday on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD, and now available on Digital HD.

Movie Grade: A

What makes the JOHN WICK movies so impressive is how fully formed they are. The trilogy is so incredibly detailed that it’s astonishing that it isn’t part of an established canon. Besides all its mesmerizing combat, the dry wit and the emotional hook for dog lovers, the fetishization of underworld etiquette (the code shared by assassins, the operation of the Continental Hotel and the slick attire everyone wears) makes for an immersive crime world to delve into.

In JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM, the franchise’s Wick-ipedia expands. We see how other parts of the world coexist with what’s been established in New York, and we learn how anyone on the street could be a ruthless assassin. It could be someone working construction around the corner, someone making sushi at a street-side bar or a homeless person begging for change in an alleyway — anyone trying to appear to live a quiet, normal life like you and me, but with an Uzi tucked into the belt or a knife hidden up the sleeve. It’s intense to explore, and it only raises the stakes for what’s to come. 

So, get ready for a two-plus-hour symphony of violence and mayhem. Like MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, CHAPTER 3 starts running and swinging, and it doesn’t stop until the credits roll. It’s some of the greatest action you’ll ever see and it’ll, no doubt, have everyone in your theater moaning like Meg Ryan in the famous scene from WHEN HARRY MET SALLY.

CHAPTER 3 picks up seconds after CHAPTER 2. Legendary hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has just killed a member of the High Table on Continental grounds and has been declared “excommunicado,” meaning he’s been stripped of the organization’s protective services. There’s a $14 million bounty on his head, too. John has one hour to formulate a plan, collect his strength and find some weapons. Once his time is up, it’s a nonstop battle to the death — which is exactly what CHAPTER 3 becomes. 

John Wick faces off against people twice his size and armed with every weapon you can think of. It can’t be easy for John. He needs to take some punches in between all the arm snapping and bullets to head he delivers. It has to be believable, and Reeves and director Chad Stahelski (who directed the previous two films) are all about creating an authentic-feeling experience for the audience. So, don’t expect to pause and say, “Yeah. Right …” at any moment during the film. Every move is carefully thought through and no stones are left unturned. Stahelski keeps things simple and moving.

In addition to improving the story flow, the new characters elevate the franchise as well. The primary suspects being Halle Berry as Sofia (a retired assassin with a pair of vicious German shepherds), Asia Kate Dillon as The Adjudicator (a saucy High Table overseer who makes sure everyone is doing their jobs according to the rules) and Mark Dacascos as Zero (a scene-stealing super-assassin hired by the Adjudicator). 

Berry is one of the most fascinating characters to be added to the series roster. In little screen time, you know who she is, where she comes from and what her principles are. Like John, she will do anything for her family, including her dogs. Her dogs do what we’ve been craving from this franchise ever since John’s puppy was killed in the first film: kill. They take people out left and right, scale walls and hop over ledges in ways that’ll leave your jaw on the theater floor. Word is Berry trained with these dogs for months to develop that bond and broke three ribs during her combat training, and all that hard work and seamless fight choreography shows on screen. 

Dillon (of BILLIONS and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK fame) is savage as hell. Rather than repeat Ruby Rose’s ass-kicking character in CHAPTER 2, Dillon brings a level of menace without ever throwing a single punch. She strikes fear in people only by her ability to turn a phrase. Scenes where she strips certain characters of power are a sight to behold. 

The most engaging character, however, is Dacascos’ Zero. Most antagonists in this franchise have been crime bosses and skilled fighters. Zero is undeniably a skilled fighter (perhaps more than we’ve seen before), but Dacascos adds another element of intrigue by playing him as a fan of John Wick. It’s like imagining the fighting skills of Wick combined with the personality of Agent Coulson from THE AVENGERS. Zero and John will brawl to get your blood pumping, but they will release the tension between those battles with their funny banter. The final showdown in a glass house is simultaneously gripping and hilarious. 

In terms of action, there are quite a few set pieces that will go down in cinema history books. There’s an unbelievable sequence between John and some thugs tossing daggers, knives and axes at each other. The scene shows the opponents grabbing whatever weapon they can off the shelf to use on each other. Another scene that’s just as exciting is when John is being chased down by a biker gang armed with swords. You get goosebumps from the camera zooming down the highway as the outfit flashes its weapons and proceeds to take John out.

Unfortunately, some of the fight choreography displayed in the hand-to-hand combat sequences occasionally render as slow. You can almost feel the talent waiting for their cues to strike. That said, I appreciate the level of authenticity that Stahelski brings to the film by letting actors battle with long takes. It truly appears as though everyone is hurting each other, no matter how slow the fighting may appear. 

It’s amazing how many believed the first JOHN WICK film was going to be an average action flick, myself included, yet it has grown to become one of the best franchises of all time. It’s so layered with rich complexity and incredible world building that you’ll find yourself lost in thought once the films send you back out into the world. The possibilities of this universe and the places it can take our characters are endlessly fascinating. 

CHAPTER 3 blew the doors off the summer movie season. It’s a film that will outlive us all and will be studied by filmmakers and stunt operators for many years to come. It’s a groundbreaking feat and one of the year’s very best.

4K Picture Grade: A 

The 4K Ultra HD release of the film is super slick. The budget for Chapter 3 was much higher than for the previous two films, and the attention to detail shows in the 4K presentation. The way the rain splashes on the streets and the neon lights illuminate the sets (especially during the final showdown at the Continental Hotel) — holy hell! The combat is even more visceral with its sharper image and thunderous multidimensional sound.

Extras Grade: A+

Another bonus is (which is super rare thus far with 4K releases) all the special features are available to watch on the 4K disc. Typically you have the main feature in 4K and all the bonus material is on the standard Blu-ray. But here, you can watch all 13 bonus materials in 4K.

A majority of the featurettes are dedicated to the stunts. It’s quite clear the actors and filmmakers went through a lot of training to make the action pop. Watching Reeves flip stunt guys, Halle Berry build a bond with her character’s two dogs, and Mark Dacascos (who plays the film’s antagonist) dish about how he essentially trained his whole life for the part all makes for exceptional viewing. It will have you loving and appreciating the world of JOHN WICK even more.

  • DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • DOLBY ATMOS AUDIO TRACK
  • Parabellum: Legacy of the High Table” Featurette
  • “Excommunicado” Featurette
  • “Check Your Sights” Featurette
  • “Saddle Up Wick” Featurette
  • “Bikes, Blades, Bridges, and Bits” Featurette
  • “Continental in the Desert” Featurette
  • “Dog Fu” Featurette
  • “House of Transparency” Featurette
  • “Shot by Shot” Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer #1
  • Theatrical Trailer #2
  • John Wick Hex Game Trailer
  • “Behind the Scenes of John Wick Hex” Featurette
  • Optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles for the main feature
About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.