John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (4 stars)

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Keanu Reeves returns for this terrific third instalment in the ultra-violent action franchise

John Wick can kill with a horse and from a horse, with a thick library book or any kind of gun. But it's the how, when and wow that makes the third film, Parabellum, the best of this wildly innovative action franchise.

It follows on from John Wick: Chapter 2, where Keanu Reeve's uber-capable protagonist was forced to kill a member of the untouchable High Table. Now he's a global exile with a $14m bounty on his head and a moving target for every assassin everywhere. Unwelcome at the Continental – the New York hotel haven for hitmen and women run by Winston (Ian McShane) and Charon (Lance Reddick), where no 'business' is allowed on the premises – Wick's survival is a glorious excuse for spectacular fight sequences, in a film where the production design and cinematography rival even the best of Bond. Escaping to Casablanca, John asks snarly assassin Sofia (Halle Berry) for the help she owes him. It's a trip that leads him into the desert to see the mysterious man above the High Table.

While Reeves in a suit walking over sand dunes is an amazing visual – in a franchise full of perfect shots – there are numerous touches of genius that make what can be a slightly exhausting two-hour-plus running time worthwhile: John's habit of using his gun like a stapler; Sofia's incredible attack dogs, which have a tendency to lunge for crotches and can leap onto bridges; Anjelica Huston's delicious turn as The Director, a hardened Russian ballet hit-lady; Laurence Fishburne returning as the dirty, powerful Bowery King. Throw into the mix the instantly loathsome Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon from Orange Is the New Black) and sushi master and kung fu killer Zero (Mark Dacascos), and you've got a phenomenal ride.

Directed once again by former stuntman Chad Stahelski, Parabellum is several notches above Chapter 2 excitement-wise while, emotionally, it's not far from Wick coming out of retirement to avenge the killing of his puppy in the first film; his desperation, grief and pain drive him on. As Winston says, 'Si vis pacem, para bellum' – 'If you want peace, prepare for war'. John's take? 'Guns. Lots of guns.' Wick 3 is jaw-droppingly violent, hilarious and surprising. It's also a hell-of-a lesson in cool.

General release from Fri 17 May.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 2h 10min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Chad Stahelski
  • Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Saïd Taghmaoui, Jerome Flynn, Jason Mantzoukas, Tobias Segal, Boban Marjanović, Anjelica Huston, Ian McShane
  • UK release: 15 May 2019

John Wick (Reeves) is a global exile with a $14m bounty on his head, and is forced to ask snarly assassin Sofia (Berry) for the help she owes him. The third instalment of this action franchise is the best, with spectacular fight sequences, numerous genius details and excellent performances. Violent, hilarious, surprising…

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