Courtesy of Lionsgate
Talk about one of the most unexpected franchises of the decade, 2014’s “John Wick” floated under the radar before finding new life in the post-theatrical market, which quickly gave “John Wick: Chapter Two” more carnage and mayhem to live up too, and just when you think this series can’t build or, rather, bring more precision and stylistic action sequences to the medium, “John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum” almost rewrites the status quo of what action blockbusters can be.
Similar to Tom Cruise’s star driven “Mission: Impossible” franchise which only seems to get better with age, “John Wick” is likes its dissociated cousin twice removed. Far more outlandish, brutal and violent than any film needs to be, Keanu Reeves once again steps into the shadowy myth that is John Wick. When we last saw Mr. Wick he committed a big no-no when he slayed a fellow enemy on the consecrated grounds of The Continental Hotel (in the Wickverse, assassins have to abide by a strict moral code of ethics, and his offense is the worst of them all) and now John’s been excommunicato with only one hour to prep before every trained killer in the world seeks out the $14 million dollar bounty on his head.
In the films deliriously intoxicating first hour, Reeves continues to showcase his agility and gonzo stamina. Starting with an early showdown when Wick has a run in with a goon named Earnest, whose tall enough to play for the Boston Celtics, inside a condensed New York state library. We get a smartly staged and tightly wound slugfest that ends with Wick bludgeoning the poor bastard with a book --- and then putting it back (I can’t make this stuff up). Another sequence midway through introduces an old ally played by Halle Berry (doing the best with her minimal screen time) equipped with two canines of doom ready to rip off a man’s face on command and that’s probably only the fourth or five craziest moment in this sequel.
Though there is a story here and the deconstruction of this universe is fun to witness, the endless supply of bodies and bullets is what contributes to the madness on screen (perhaps parabellum is latin for “let’s watch Keanu Reeves murder henchmen on a freeway going 70mph). But, in an effort to expand the scope of this franchise, screenwriters Derek Kolstad, Chris Collins, and Shay Hatten introduce actress Asia Kate Dillon as “The Adjudicator” - who is like an IRS auditor for the group known as “The High Table” (basically, the governing board of assassins) who comes sniffing around following the events of “John Wick: Chapter Two” and gives “Chapter 3” an edge over the first two installments.
This is combat heavy pulp of this highest decree, and to think this all started of an all powerful contract killer who executed people in retribution for the demise of his puppy. “Chapter 3” somehow manages to crank the dial further and deepen the franchises full scale mythology. Director Chad Stahelski (Reeve’s stunt double for “The Matrix”) truly delivers on the action front, and the elegance in the way these stunts are orchestrated is truly spectacular. Prepare for brawls, eye gouging, knife fights, more shattered glass than Jackie Chan’s “Police Story”, and why not a horse chase for a good measure. Do yourself a favor and bring a napkin to wipe off the blood once the film is over.