John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

It would not be accurate to say that John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is 130 minutes of Keanu Reeves shooting people in the face. Sometimes he stabs them instead. There's not a whole lot to say about the film that hasn't already been said about John Wick or John Wick: Chapter 2. It takes all the things that worked in those pictures and gives you a whole lot more of them.

The plot's pretty simple. Wick (Keanu Reeves) has been excommunicated by The High Table – a group of powerful crime lords – for killing one of its members at the end of the previous installment. He's now on the run, with a $14 million bounty on his head. Assassins and mercenaries everywhere are out to get him. Wick, however, believes there may be a way to save himself.

Two new additions to the franchise make their debuts in Parabellum. Halle Berry is Sofia, a fellow assassin and dog lover. She helps Wick at a crucial moment. Asia Kate Dillon plays The Adjudicator, an employee of the High Table assigned to mete out consequences to those who break the rules. Both provide fresh angles for the movie to explore.

John Wick: Chapter 3 raises the bar on action sequences. Many action pictures these days achieve mayhem through rapid-fire editing, often to the point where you can't really tell what you're looking at. Director Chad Stahelski goes the opposite way, using longer takes to make it clear Reeves is doing the majority of his own fighting and stunts. A couple of the action sequences are breathtaking. One finds Wick fighting off bad guys while riding a horse through the streets of New York City. And I know the motorcycle chase/machete fight was accomplished via special effects, but man, does it ever look real.

Outside of the ultra-violence, the movie continues to build the intricate crime world in which Wick exists. Part of the fun of these films is that each new entry adds layers to what has come before. There are new characters and new glimpses of the High Table's rules of operation. We even learn a few new things about Wick himself. The manner in which this series allows itself to grow in crazy, twisted ways is a big part of what makes it enjoyable.

Of course, there's no larger meaning here, and the scenes of frenzied violence occasionally go on a little long, to the point where you risk zoning out just a bit. But Keanu is great, the action is stunningly staged, and the newcomers help to liven everything up. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum ends, as its predecessor did, with a set-up for the next sequel that seems highly promising.

Bring on Chapter 4!

out of four

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is rated R for pervasive strong violence, and some language. The running time is 2 hours and 10 minutes.