When last we left our dog-loving titular hero (Keanu Reeves), he'd run afoul of the High Table—a clandestine organization with assassins and operatives pretty much everywhere around the globe. He was given an hour, however, to get his shit together by the manager of the New York Continental Hotel (which is, like, secretly an assassin safe haven, y'know?), and we join him at the tail end of this 60 minutes. Of course, this hour sets into motion a whole string of unfortunate circumstances for said manager (Ian McShane), the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), The Director (Anjelica Huston) and whatever other High Table allies might have helped John Wick, even a little bit. Turns out the High Table's top brass are sticklers for rules, and now John Wick has a massive bounty on his head, which dredges up every assassin in the whole wide world. Our bud's gonna die unless he can make and execute some serious life decisions; namely, how he's going to shoot everyone in the face.
It's sooooooo stupid. But it's sooooooo crazy fun.
See, John Wick succeeds because it knows exactly what it is—an excuse for absurdist violence doled out amidst New York City's teeming backdrop, Casa Blanca's bustling back alleys and the weird retro-futurist environs of the Continental's bowels. Never does the film take itself seriously enough as to err into the heavy-handed, never does it try to be more than what it is; instead, John Wick revels in its own blood-soaked ballet and subterfuge hidden in plain sight. Sure, Keanu is there, but he has about six lines, four of which are "Yeah." In other words, who even knows what the stakes are? In fact, we don't even really remember how the movie began, we just know people started getting stabbed.
Which reminds me—John Wick makes violence hella fun. Believe me, I know, that is a tough sell for many. But someplace between the brilliantly shot martial arts, the popping color schemes of the various acts and the acrobatic gunplay and/or fights, you've just got to let go and realize that escapism doesn't come much better than this, that it's goofy. And that that's OK.
Don't take your kids, though.
Onetime stuntman Chad Stahelski returns for directing duties, upping the ante over the previous films in pretty much all respects. That's kind of hard to believe possible, but is amazingly true. Halle Berry as the mysterious Sofia is a particularly welcome addition, especially since she also likes dogs and hers didn't show up to the party to mess around so much as they did to rip throats.
Chaos ensues, stunning fight choreography explodes everywhere—a fucking horse kicks a guy in his face so hard that his head practically bursts! … Look, high art this ain't, but one doesn't look to John Wick for the next evolution in cinematic artistry, one looks to John Wick so they can have their mind blown by whatever insane stunt or bizarre death comes next, tap their movie-going companion and whisper, "Holy shit!"
+What a ridiculous good time
-It's not, like, good, but we knew that
John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum
Directed by Stahelski
With Reeves, Berry, McShane, Fishburne and Huston
Regal (both locations), Violet Crown, R, 130 min.