The John Wick series is like a snowball rolling down a mountain that keeps gaining momentum and expanding in size, leaving behind a beautiful trail destruction wherever it goes. The 2014 sleeper hit was one of the best action films of the decade, mixing thrilling fight choreography with inventive gunplay. John Wick: Chapter 2 upped the stakes and the body count, resulting in arguably the best action sequel since Mad Max: Fury Road. Given Hollywood’s track record, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is where the franchise should start to show chinks in its armor. Thankfully, this threequel doesn’t repeat the mistakes of The Matrix Revolutions. Just as Keanu Reeves never ages, the same can be said about these movies.
Chapter 2 left us on a killer cliffhanger as Mr. Wick is excommunicated from his secret assassin society. As this film commences, John has less than an hour to devise an escape plan before a $14 million contract is taken out on his life. We’ve see John survive waves of armed henchmen and fellow assassins that’ve given him a run for his money. Now the world is literally pitted against him, though, taking the tension to whole new levels. Virtually everywhere John goes, someone is trying to kill him. As Ian McShane’s Winston puts it, this may be the first time that the playing field is actually even.
That being said, John isn’t entirely out of friends. While he’s still the definition of a one-man army, John receives some welcome backup from Anjelica Huston as the mysterious Director, Halle Berry as the badass Sofia, and a couple loyal dogs who eat body parts for breakfast. Even if they’re reluctant to help someone who’s excommunicado, honor exists amongst assassins nonetheless. The High Table doesn’t see it that way, however, targeting anyone who lends John Wick a hand. This puts Winston and Laurence Fishburne’s Bowery King in an especially difficult position, having been two of John’s greatest allies in the past.
To make sure John doesn’t rock the boat any more than he already has, a high-ranking member known as the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) enlists the only assassin who may be able to tango with Baba Yaga. Played with epic charisma by Mark Dacascos, Zero is easily the most entertaining foe who’s ever tried to put John six feet under. Not only does he chop sushi like a samurai, but his obsession with killing John makes for a hilariously intimidating dynamic. You can tell he has a deep admiration for John Wick’s work, almost like how a fanboy flaunts over their idol at Comic-Con. In Zero’s eyes, he’s the only one worthy of assassinating John and defeating him in glorious battle will be the ultimate love letter.
Of course, the movie’s true stars are Keanu Reeves, who brings genuine layers to the stoic antihero architype, and director Chad Stahelski. Where so many action movies overdose on exposition and complicated plots, Stahelski gives us just the right amount. The underground world John Wick occupies is kept clouded in ambiguity, only giving the audience the bare essentials. Where the story abides by less is more logic, the action goes into overdrive. In the same vein as a Quentin Tarantino movie, the fights and chases here are so excessive that they would made an anime look subtle. At the same time, we feel every bullet that bursts through someone’s head and every knife that pieces someone’s flesh. Stahelski directs his film with the sophistication of a ballet and the bombastic excitement of The Terminator, finding an unusually perfect balance. Rounding his picture out with stylish cinematography, atmospheric art direction, and hard-hitting sound design, John Wick hasn’t run out of ammunition yet.