'John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum' 4K Blu-ray Review: Beautiful Carnage

Wick franchise simultaneously gives you more and less than its brilliant predecessors. 

On the ‘more’ side, the action set pieces are more numerous, more protracted and more extreme than anything the series has given us before. Which is saying something. The filmmakers estimate there’s as much action (which here means fantastically shot extreme violence) in John Wick: Chapter 3 as there was in the first two films put together.

In the ‘less’ column there’s less story, less time to explore Wick’s character, and, in the biggest loss, less motivation for Wick’s jaw-dropping ‘one man army’ rampages. 

Photo: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Lionsgate

Many Wick fans will understandably have no problem at all with getting so much more of the series’ stunning mix of supremely slick gun-play, knife-play, and martial arts. Especially once the armor-piercing shotguns come out following a sickly hilarious sequence where Wick has to go to extreme lengths to tackle a swathe of enemies wearing full body armor. 

For me, though, while Parabellum is never less than wince-inducingly entertaining and features plenty of iconic moments, witnessing so much stylish death dealing without the same amount of righteous vengeance underpinning it leaves the third Wick film feeling just a little short of the soul that elevates its predecessors so far above the genre norm. Naturally, though, I can’t wait for number four.

Release details

Studio: Lionsgate

What you get: Region-free 4K Blu-ray, Region A Blu-ray (grrrr), Digital Copy code

Extra features: Parabellum: Legacy of the High Table featurette; Excommunicado featurette; Check your sights featurette on the actors’ gun training; ‘Saddle up, Wick’ featurette on the horse sequence; Bikers, Blades, Bridges and Bits featurette; Continental in the Desert featurette on the desert sequences; Dog Fu featurette on training the various dogs used in the film; Featurette on creating the House of Transparency for the film’s final showdown; Shot by Shot featurette on the editing; two theatrical trailers; John Wick game trailer; John Wick game making of featurette

Best soundtrack option: Dolby Atmos

HDR Picture Formats: HDR10, Dolby Vision

HDR10 mastering data: MaxFALL: 1000 nits, MaxCLL: 1000 nits

Key kit used for this review: Panasonic 65GZ1500, Samsung 65Q90R, Panasonic UB820 4K Blu-ray player, Oppo 205 4K Blu-ray player

Picture quality

Both previous John Wick 4K Blu-rays were brilliant examples of what the latest (and likely last) disc format is capable of. Especially in the color and high dynamic range departments. And for the most part John Wick: Chapter 3 continues the theme, leaving you shaking your head in wonder at how such brutality can end up looking so gorgeous.

Photo: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Lionsgate

The film’s highly stylized contrast- and color-rich photography is tailor-made for wide color and HDR. Especially if you have the necessary kit to play the Dolby Vision master, which gorgeously enhances the dynamic range to give even more punch to the film’s light and color extremes. The opening night scenes around a rainy Times Square are a particularly dazzling exhibition of the difference Dolby Vision can make.

The HDR10 version features MaxFALL and MaxCLL values of 1000 nits each, according to the metadata reader on my Panasonic UB820 4K Blu-ray player. While it might perhaps have been nice to see Lionsgate work to 4,000-nit peaks, the fact remains that even if your TV or 4K BD player can’t take advantage of the disc’s Dolby Vision master, Parabellum still delivers a dazzling exhibition of what makes HDR such a picture quality game changer. Wick’s world feels significantly more intense, dialed up, visceral and stylish on the 4K BD than it does on the much flatter looking HD Blu-ray.

Detail levels aren’t quite as extreme as I remember them looking on the first John Wick 4K Blu-ray. Likely because this third film only got a 2K Digital Intermediate (which forms the basis for this 4K Blu-ray) for its cinema run, whereas the first film got a 4K DI. 

Photo: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Lionsgate

That said, the upscaling work is strong, presenting a crisp, clean and detailed finish throughout, despite the often extreme amounts of fast motion the transfer has to cope with. It maybe helps in this regard that the video stream typically ticks along in a pretty respectable 60-75Mbps range.

Sound quality

Brace your walls, wait for your neighbors to go out, shut all pets safely away and prepare your ears for another truly epic John Wick Dolby Atmos mix.

Everything about Parabellum’s audio track is immense. The opening score contains huge bass levels and is mixed aggressively for height as well as rear presence. The lightning, rain and thunder which - inevitably - reintroduce us to Wick’s world throw you into the eye of the storm with an extraordinarily potent combination of scale, rain patter detail, and raw, rolling volume for the thunder claps. All delivered alongside a pulsating synth score with a rear presence that’s pretty much as potent as the front.

From the explosively mixed opening scenes you know what you’re in for by the time the  action scenes kick in - and the mix doesn’t let you down. Gun shots, punches, bullets ricocheting everywhere, bones crunching, heads crashing into walls and, of course, the unforgettable sound of knives being pushed or hammered into various parts of various bodies… All this audio violence is delivered with so much dynamic enthusiasm, force, precision and sheer glee that you actually find yourself wincing before every impact happens, rather than afterwards. Which, weirdly, I’d class as a good thing. 

Photo: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Lionsgate

I wouldn’t exactly say Parabellum might only be a PG13 if it wasn’t for the soundtrack. But the extent to which the Atmos mix enhances the ballet of bullets, fists, knives, axes and, um, horses can’t be overstated.

It’s worth wrapping this section up, though, by stressing that the mix is not just notable for it’s dynamism and aggression. Its willingness to pour imaginative and precise effects into every corner of the three-dimensional Dolby Atmos space remains admirably consistent even during quieter moments (yes, there are one or two of these), ensuring that they, too, enjoy a rare sense of space and presence.

Extra features

John Wick: Chapter 3 ships on 4K Blu-ray with a decent set of extra features - all of which, pleasingly, are found on both the HD and 4K Blu-ray discs. 

Each of the nine featurettes looks at a different aspect of making a John Wick film (from editing to choreography, set design and physical training) in reasonable detail, serving up impressive amounts of fascinating behind-the-scenes footage along the way. 

The ones focusing on the physical training Keanu Reeves and Halle Berry go through to get ready for these films are particularly great, but actually all are well worth a watch.

Photo: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Lionsgate

Surprisingly, even the 10th featurette about trying to make a video game out of the John Wick universe is pretty interesting in the way it explores the complications around trying to recapture John Wick’s approach to combat in a game environment.

The trailers are the most skippable of the extras, as usual. Though actually the first one, at least, is one of the best examples of the trailer art I’ve seen for a while.

Verdict

If you loved the first two John Wick movies, you’ll at least like this one too. And in HDR and wide color terms, at least, the transfer of Chapter 3 is a consistently dazzling demonstration of what the 4K Blu-ray format is capable of. 

Just bear in mind if you live outside the US and you’re thinking of importing the US release that the HD Blu-ray provided alongside the region-free Ultra HD disc is locked to Region A. Though the fact that the extra features also appear on the 4K disc makes this region-locked HD Blu-ray situation less of a concern than it would be if the HD Blu-ray was the only disc carrying the extras.

--

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The Film

The third installment in the John Wick franchise simultaneously gives you more and less than its brilliant predecessors. 

On the ‘more’ side, the action set pieces are more numerous, more protracted and more extreme than anything the series has given us before. Which is saying something. The filmmakers estimate there’s as much action (which here means fantastically shot extreme violence) in John Wick: Chapter 3 as there was in the first two films put together.

In the ‘less’ column there’s less story, less time to explore Wick’s character, and, in the biggest loss, less motivation for Wick’s jaw-dropping ‘one man army’ rampages. 

Photo: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Lionsgate

Many Wick fans will understandably have no problem at all with getting so much more of the series’ stunning mix of supremely slick gun-play, knife-play, and martial arts. Especially once the armor-piercing shotguns come out following a sickly hilarious sequence where Wick has to go to extreme lengths to tackle a swathe of enemies wearing full body armor. 

For me, though, while Parabellum is never less than wince-inducingly entertaining and features plenty of iconic moments, witnessing so much stylish death dealing without the same amount of righteous vengeance underpinning it leaves the third Wick film feeling just a little short of the soul that elevates its predecessors so far above the genre norm. Naturally, though, I can’t wait for number four.

Release details

Studio: Lionsgate

What you get: Region-free 4K Blu-ray, Region A Blu-ray (grrrr), Digital Copy code

Extra features: Parabellum: Legacy of the High Table featurette; Excommunicado featurette; Check your sights featurette on the actors’ gun training; ‘Saddle up, Wick’ featurette on the horse sequence; Bikers, Blades, Bridges and Bits featurette; Continental in the Desert featurette on the desert sequences; Dog Fu featurette on training the various dogs used in the film; Featurette on creating the House of Transparency for the film’s final showdown; Shot by Shot featurette on the editing; two theatrical trailers; John Wick game trailer; John Wick game making of featurette

Best soundtrack option: Dolby Atmos

HDR Picture Formats: HDR10, Dolby Vision

HDR10 mastering data: MaxFALL: 1000 nits, MaxCLL: 1000 nits

Key kit used for this review: Panasonic 65GZ1500, Samsung 65Q90R, Panasonic UB820 4K Blu-ray player, Oppo 205 4K Blu-ray player

Picture quality

Both previous John Wick 4K Blu-rays were brilliant examples of what the latest (and likely last) disc format is capable of. Especially in the color and high dynamic range departments. And for the most part John Wick: Chapter 3 continues the theme, leaving you shaking your head in wonder at how such brutality can end up looking so gorgeous.

Photo: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Lionsgate

The film’s highly stylized contrast- and color-rich photography is tailor-made for wide color and HDR. Especially if you have the necessary kit to play the Dolby Vision master, which gorgeously enhances the dynamic range to give even more punch to the film’s light and color extremes. The opening night scenes around a rainy Times Square are a particularly dazzling exhibition of the difference Dolby Vision can make.

The HDR10 version features MaxFALL and MaxCLL values of 1000 nits each, according to the metadata reader on my Panasonic UB820 4K Blu-ray player. While it might perhaps have been nice to see Lionsgate work to 4,000-nit peaks, the fact remains that even if your TV or 4K BD player can’t take advantage of the disc’s Dolby Vision master, Parabellum still delivers a dazzling exhibition of what makes HDR such a picture quality game changer. Wick’s world feels significantly more intense, dialed up, visceral and stylish on the 4K BD than it does on the much flatter looking HD Blu-ray.

Detail levels aren’t quite as extreme as I remember them looking on the first John Wick 4K Blu-ray. Likely because this third film only got a 2K Digital Intermediate (which forms the basis for this 4K Blu-ray) for its cinema run, whereas the first film got a 4K DI. 

Photo: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Lionsgate

That said, the upscaling work is strong, presenting a crisp, clean and detailed finish throughout, despite the often extreme amounts of fast motion the transfer has to cope with. It maybe helps in this regard that the video stream typically ticks along in a pretty respectable 60-75Mbps range.

Sound quality

Brace your walls, wait for your neighbors to go out, shut all pets safely away and prepare your ears for another truly epic John Wick Dolby Atmos mix.

Everything about Parabellum’s audio track is immense. The opening score contains huge bass levels and is mixed aggressively for height as well as rear presence. The lightning, rain and thunder which - inevitably - reintroduce us to Wick’s world throw you into the eye of the storm with an extraordinarily potent combination of scale, rain patter detail, and raw, rolling volume for the thunder claps. All delivered alongside a pulsating synth score with a rear presence that’s pretty much as potent as the front.

From the explosively mixed opening scenes you know what you’re in for by the time the  action scenes kick in - and the mix doesn’t let you down. Gun shots, punches, bullets ricocheting everywhere, bones crunching, heads crashing into walls and, of course, the unforgettable sound of knives being pushed or hammered into various parts of various bodies… All this audio violence is delivered with so much dynamic enthusiasm, force, precision and sheer glee that you actually find yourself wincing before every impact happens, rather than afterwards. Which, weirdly, I’d class as a good thing. 

Photo: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Lionsgate

I wouldn’t exactly say Parabellum might only be a PG13 if it wasn’t for the soundtrack. But the extent to which the Atmos mix enhances the ballet of bullets, fists, knives, axes and, um, horses can’t be overstated.

It’s worth wrapping this section up, though, by stressing that the mix is not just notable for it’s dynamism and aggression. Its willingness to pour imaginative and precise effects into every corner of the three-dimensional Dolby Atmos space remains admirably consistent even during quieter moments (yes, there are one or two of these), ensuring that they, too, enjoy a rare sense of space and presence.

Extra features

John Wick: Chapter 3 ships on 4K Blu-ray with a decent set of extra features - all of which, pleasingly, are found on both the HD and 4K Blu-ray discs. 

Each of the nine featurettes looks at a different aspect of making a John Wick film (from editing to choreography, set design and physical training) in reasonable detail, serving up impressive amounts of fascinating behind-the-scenes footage along the way. 

The ones focusing on the physical training Keanu Reeves and Halle Berry go through to get ready for these films are particularly great, but actually all are well worth a watch.

Photo: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, Lionsgate

Surprisingly, even the 10th featurette about trying to make a video game out of the John Wick universe is pretty interesting in the way it explores the complications around trying to recapture John Wick’s approach to combat in a game environment.

The trailers are the most skippable of the extras, as usual. Though actually the first one, at least, is one of the best examples of the trailer art I’ve seen for a while.

Verdict

If you loved the first two John Wick movies, you’ll at least like this one too. And in HDR and wide color terms, at least, the transfer of Chapter 3 is a consistently dazzling demonstration of what the 4K Blu-ray format is capable of. 

Just bear in mind if you live outside the US and you’re thinking of importing the US release that the HD Blu-ray provided alongside the region-free Ultra HD disc is locked to Region A. Though the fact that the extra features also appear on the 4K disc makes this region-locked HD Blu-ray situation less of a concern than it would be if the HD Blu-ray was the only disc carrying the extras.

--

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like these:

'Avengers: Endgame' 4K Blu-ray Review: Not The Disc Fans Deserve

'Alita: Battle Angel' 4K Blu-ray Review: Manganificent?

'Men In Black: International' 4K Blu-ray review: No Neuralyzer Required

'Stand By Me' 4K Blu-ray Review: Rediscovering Your Youth

'Rocketman' 4K Blu-ray Review: I Guess That's Why They Call It The 4K Blus

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I've spent the past 25 years writing about the world of home entertainment technology--first at Home Cinema Choice magazine, where I became Deputy Editor, and for the pa...