When sharp-suited superassassin John Wick dives back into the intricately designed cloak-and-dagger universe established in the game-changing 2015 original and, it’s bad news for just about anyone he meets. But it’s great news for us.
Released (or should that be unleashed?) around the world this week, John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum is barking mad. And not just because there are even more dogs thrown into the mix. The series started with soulful murderer Wick grieving his dead pet, and it’s a sign of how the series has just gotten bigger, badder and madder that Chapter 3 — Parabellum throws a squad of attack dogs into the ring.
John Wick 3 picks up moments after the end of the second movie, with Keanu Reeves’ hit man on the run from his shadowy masters. The series formula of stylish, visceral, relentlessly jaw-dropping action is firmly established by now, and this threequel wastes little time in getting into the thick of it. Parabellum moves at breakneck speed as Wick escapes his pursuers.
From here, Wick rushes from one violent confrontation to the next, slowing down only to get doses of exposition from allies played by series newcomers Anjelica Huston and Jerome Flynn (Bronn from Game of Thrones). Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane and Lance Reddick reprise their roles. These heavyweight actors bring gravitas and add depth to the ludicrous lore, chewing plenty of scenery as they steer Wick to the next action sequence.
It’s a pretty straightforward formula, but let’s be honest: You come to a movie like this for intense action, and John Wick 3 doesn’t disappoint. An early scene sees Wick making human pin cushions out of some goons, and that’s just the start of countless darkly satisfying moments.
Then there are those homicidal hounds. We jump from one ambitious set piece to another, widening the scope of Wick’s World from New York to a stunningly realized Casablanca, where Halle Berry proves her action chops in some of the movie’s best sequences. Watch out for those dogs! Sadly, Berry doesn’t stick around long enough.
It’s a series trademark that the action is always clearly visible. The kinetic camera work carries us smoothly along for the ride, full of audacious uninterrupted shots showing off the athleticism of Reeves and the stuntmen who charge at him to be dispatched in assorted entertaining ways. The climactic battle has some pretty magnificent buildup with an excellent shootout, but the final hand-to-hand fight outstays its welcome a little. You’ll laugh and cringe at the shocking violence, but may find yourself feeling a bit numb by the time it’s over.
Luckily, the series’ world and backstory is as fascinating as ever. Wick’s order of assassins has a violent code of honor that’s enforced with plenty of dark humor, dressed up in evocative, rich, quasireligious language.
And this movie takes the time to develop its new villains. Mark Dacascos really shines as Wick’s charismatic nemesis, building up the sense of an immediate physical threat, while Asia Kate Dillon’s ice-cold bureaucrat hints at a larger enemy behind the scenes.
Reeves is almost monosyllabic throughout, obviously, but says just enough to make you care about his character (and his dog, of course) as he’s presented with choices that up the stakes at every turn. Parabellum twists and turns dizzyingly as characters’ alliances shift, so things never get too comfortable as the action unfolds with breakneck momentum.
Come ready to lean into John Wick: Chapter 3’s silly drama and you’ll have a blast during this riotous celebration of action cinema.
For more on John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, check out our sister site GameSpot’s review too.
Originally published May 10.