Another year of cinema has passed, which means it’s time for our second annual Golden Cages awards, the only end-of-the-year awards program featuring everyone’s favorite actor as a screaming statuette! Over the next two weeks leading up to the Academy Awards, we at Flixist will be announcing our winners across seventeen different categories for what we consider the best achievements in film in 2019. Why do we wait so long into the year to do this? Because we can! So sit back, relax, and enjoy the awards.
At the end of John Wick Chapter 2, as he was being marked Excommunicado, John Wick had one message for Winston to pass along to those about to seek his death:
“Whoever comes, whoever it is. I’ll kill them. I’ll kill them all.”
And with that, John and his dog took off towards an uncertain future.
Fortunately, Parabellum picks up a mere ten minutes after his meeting with Winston and doesn’t take long for John to start knocking people out. Before hitting the eight-minute mark of the 130-minute film he’s already thrown his first punch before eventually ending his 7’4” attacker’s life with a Russian folktale book.
Once the fighting starts it seemingly never ends. There’s barely a few minutes for John to stop the bleeding and for viewers to catch their breath before another scuffle ensues. When an action movie turns into a series, fight scenes have to be ramped up to keep the audience enthralled. Parabellum does just that when the camera is on John.
The choreography is a beautiful ballet at times, especially when he’s taking on more than one opponent. One of my favorite scenes happens early in the film, where he’s fighting a slew of trained killers in a hallway filled with knives encased in glass, after he spent 30 seconds piecing together a working revolver just to fire off a quick shot. As the fight continues, it moves from fists to knife throwing with glass breaking every few feet. What’s interesting here is that the first knife John throws sticks cleanly in a combatant, but then when the distances change and John gets more desperate, some of the knives bounce off his foes as if it were an amateur who can’t get the spin right. This, along with the punches he takes and the constant blood soaking through his shirt, remind us that he is human. That is until he tosses two knives cross-hand while falling backwards and hitting his target in the chest.
Sometimes when the action movies go overboard, suspension of belief is asked to stretch further than a typical movie-watching experience. Look, it sounds crazy that there’s an all-seeing organization of professional killers with their own secret society and rules, but for entertainment purposes we go with it because it’s fun and sounds cool. We’ve invested in two films under that premise, so by the third we’re at ease with it because everything felt well done and connected. Parabellum certainly takes the action to new levels, but never feels completely over the top. Everything Keanu Reeves does as John Wick feels natural. While filming, footage leaked of Keanu Reeves riding a horse through New York City, which feels like an odd thing when typed in a sentence. Yet when viewed in gestalt, it’s not that crazy.
As John fights to follow through on his promise to “kill them all,” he’s confronted with the idea that doing so is impossible. He’s asked, “How do you fight the wind? How can you smash the mountains? How can you bury the ocean?” As distressing as that may be to a normal person, it only serves as fuel for John and further pushes his narrative onward. A large part of what makes Parabellum—and the John Wick movies as a whole—work on the level they do is how much viewers believe in the character’s narrative. Remember, all this running and fighting and killing can be traced back to the death of John’s dog. What happens two movies later? Dogs are featured in a shoot-out and attack with militaristic precision as a sort of redemption story. Sidenote: when do we get a spin-off movie of Halle Berry’s Sofia? There’s a lot of mystery there, and who wouldn’t want to see her and her dogs back in action?
When thinking about what makes a great action film, Parabellum checks the boxes. Guns (lots of guns), knives, fists, horse hooves, motorcycles, and broken glass mark the trail of bodies and destruction John leaves wherever he goes. The professionalism among assassins is inspiring. While squaring off against two assassins, John is taken to the ground with blades held to his face. Instead of cutting him up, they offer their hand to get him back on his feet and tell them what an honor it is to fight him before continuing. They acutely aware of exactly who it is they’re up against which reinforces to viewers how immense the Baba Yaga really is.
Because of Reeves’ conviction to the role and the excellent combat sequences, John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum wins the Golden Cage for Best Action Movie of 2019.