Action sequel John Wick Chapter 3 is 'an adrenaline-pumping hoot'
Damon Smith watches as Keanu Reeves doles out more vicious beatings in the action-packed sequel John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3: PARABELLUM (15, 131 mins) Action/Thriller. Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Mark Dacascos, Laurence Fishburne, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick. Director: Chad Stahelski.
BLAME it on the beagle. In 2014, Keanu Reeves revitalised his post-Matrix career with John Wick, a blood-soaked action thriller about a grief-stricken hit man who exacts eye-watering revenge for a double-wrong: the theft of his prized classic car and the butchery of his beloved hound, Daisy.
Chad Stahelski's relentlessly brutal film was a giddy delight and three years later, a testosterone-pumped sequel continued the breathless hand-to-hand combat and running gun battles.
Stahelski returns to the blood-smeared director's chair for a third instalment, which dovetails neatly with the conclusion of John Wick: Chapter 2 and orchestrates a hyperkinetic battle royale on the rain-lashed streets of New York City.
The script, credited to four writers, adds several layers of intrigue but strips back characterisation to the splintered bone in order to focus on impeccably choreographed fight sequences, which reach a whoop-inducing crescendo with a showdown in an armoury museum.
Reeves and acrobatic extras deliver punishing blows to each other's faces and torsos while furiously smashing display cases, grabbing guns, knives, axes and other implements to fling through the air with dizzying precision.
Fans of earlier instalments won't be disappointed when it comes to high-octane destruction as Stahelski's camera pirouettes around his leading man on horseback and a motorcycle, flanked in one exhausting exchange by two snarling attack dogs.
John (Reeves) has been excommunicated from the Continental Hotel in New York – a membership-only haven for the criminal underworld – by dapper owner Winston (Ian McShane) after he broke the rules and terminated crime lord Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) on the premises.
The High Table, the guild of assassins which imposes a strict moral code on the spilling of blood, authorises a $14m contract on John's life.
Carnage begins on the stroke of 6pm and John calls in a long-standing marker with a crime syndicate boss (Anjelica Huston) to secure safe passage to Morocco where he hopes to reunite with fellow assassin Sofia (Halle Berry), who now manages the Continental Hotel in Casablanca.
Meanwhile, The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), a menacing emissary of the High Table, visits Winston and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), who presides over the homeless in New York, to issue stern punishments for abetting John.
Both must resign their posts within seven days or expert swordsman Zero (Mark Dacascos) will meet their resistance with his blade.
John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum is an adrenaline-pumping hoot that raises the franchise's already high bar on balletic slaughter.
Reeves rises to the physical demands of the role and Berry, Dillon and Huston inject long-overdue doses of steely femininity.
The 131-minute running time is excessive and there are worrying signs that John Wick might be aiming for the same ponderous narrative complexity as The Matrix but for now, Stahelski's slam-bang thrill ride is a deeply satisfying rush of blood to the bludgeoned head.
Released May 17