When a bruised and bloodied Keanu Reeves rides through a rain-lashed, neon-lit New York atop a literal dark horse to fight motorbike-riding fellow assassins, it’s as brilliantly ludicrous as you’ve come to expect from the John Wick series.
If your Latin is a bit rusty, John Wick: Chapter 3’s subtitle Parabellum means ‘Prepare for war’, and that’s exactly what’s on offer in this orgiastic opera of violence.
First they killed the titular character’s wife, forcing him out of retirement, then his dog and he’s been furious ever since.
Chapter 2 ended with John breaking the assassins’ code by spilling blood in the safe harbour of the Continental Hotel.
Now everyone’s after him and he’s taking them all down, one by one.
Big, bold and bonkers, the latest John Wick is a visceral thrill from start to finish.
The distillation of Reeves’ latter-career renaissance, the trio of movies have given him new career longevity, transforming him from ageing surfer into a slick-suited anti-hero with a superhuman ability to cheat death while dealing it out en masse.
The man behind it all is returning director Chad Stahelski.
A stunt co-ordinator who has worked on everything from James Bond’s Tomorrow Never Dies to comic book sequels Iron Man 2, Spider-Man 2 and The Wolverine, he was Reeves’ stunt double and fight co-ordinator in The Matrix movies.
The huge pop culture impact of those films, directed by the Wachowskis, helped Reeves transition out of playing bodacious dudes in the Bill & Ted movies and Parenthood.
Stahelski was a huge part of that, capitalising on the darker undercurrents of indie breakaway hits My Own Private Idaho, where Reeves played a heartbreaking hustler, and surf’s up thriller Point Break, where his physicality made him a mean fighting machine.
That training, and Reeves’ inbuilt cool, has stood him in good stead after a near noughties-long career stall of less-impressive fare like Constantine, the woeful remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still and his inexplicable casting in samurai epic 47 Ronin.
John Wick took what worked and ditched what didn’t.
Ruffling a blood-spattered, impeccably-suited Reeves, 54, with just enough of a hint of wrinkles around his famous face, Stahelski knew we’d buy this bone-crunching assassin’s vengeance quest.
Take out his family, and we’re down for the brutality.
And boy, does Parabellum deliver.
Every geek bullied at school will be thrilled as John takes down a towering lout with a hefty hardback in the New York Public Library.
In rapid succession there’s a make-do battle in an antique weapons store and horse hoof to the face martial arts action in nearby stables.
All this plus a Casablanca-set segue with a gun-toting, Halle Berry, who unleashes groin-hungry hounds, an awesome Anjelica Huston cameo and a majestic mirror hall showdown with a sword-wielding Mark Dacascos (Hawaii Five-0, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Factor in the emotional complexity of Ian McShane’s Continental boss Winston being forced to set loose the dogs of war against John, and you’re on to a winner.
Asia Kate Dillon’s emo Emily Blunt-like middle manager The Adjudicator amplifies the absurd humour in John’s fight back against the establishment, animating our wildest fantasy of how a bad day at the office should play out.
It’s a popcorn movie worth the ticket price.