The third John Wick pic is even more preposterously stylised and ludicrously violent than the second, with Keanu Reeves stone-facedly underacting as only he can.
Once more directed by former pro-kickboxer, martial artist and stuntman Chad Stahelski, it picks up right about where 2017’s Chapter 2 ended, and Wick still has plenty more grim vengeance left in him.
Time is running out for the now ‘excommunicado’ Wick as that shadowy criminal organisation ‘The High Table’ has put a bounty of $14 million on his head, and he stalks around rainy, Blade Runner-wannabe Manhattan streets before taking on a giant assassin in the New York Public Library. A selection of continuing characters muse about his possible fate, including Winston (Ian McShane), Charoh (Lance Reddick) and, of course, that ‘Bowery King’ and pigeon enthusiast (Laurence Fishburne keeping up the Matrix references), but they know as well as we do that he’ll probably be okay – anyone else would have been dead two movies ago.
A stabbing frenzy in an antique store sets the tone as Stahelski (and co-screenwriter and Wick creator Derek Kolstad) make sure that all the endless goons and nasties that come after John are special Movie Baddies that line up to be slain, stop shooting or attacking as he gets close and then seem surprised as they’re bloodthirstily dispatched. After doing in about 563 of these guys he seeks safe passage with the aid of a new Russian character named ‘The Director’ (played by Anjelica Huston, no less), who uses a ballet school as a cover for all her nefarious dealings in what might be a roundabout reference to Suspiria.
John winds up in Casablanca and seeks further help from another colleague, Sofia (Halle Berry), who’s by his side as they knock off another 1387 extras with help from her loyal dogs, which are trained to savage bad guys in their most sensitive spots. He eventually returns to Manhattan to take on The High Table as another 16981 killers go after him, one of which, Zero (B Grader Mark Dacascos), is a big fan and really chuffed to be murdering him. Or attempting to.
Stahelski’s plans to make the violence here more intense is evident, especially as there’s now a limit to the number of guns fired and, instead, John uses a range of other sources as lethal weapons, including a book, a motorcycle helmet and a horse, which he then uses to ride down a Manhattan street. However, although such testosterone-dripping nonsense seems beyond criticism, there is always that nagging problem with these Wick epics where the dour, po-faced seriousness of tone sits ill with the messily black-comic gruesomeness, creating something that might be distastefully extreme and even offensive if it was in any way more realistic.
But, fortunately for hormone-addled teenage boys the world over, it isn’t. And while Keanu has stated that sequels spoil movie series (and he would certainly know after those terrible second two Matrix films), the film does open the door to more sequels. It seems the John Wick franchise is as difficult to kill as Wick himself.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (MA) is in cinemas from May 16