MOVIE REVIEW: Bonkers action flick crazier than you expect
Let's be honest. No one is buying a ticket to any John Wick movie for the story or Keanu Reeves' acting prowess.
The appeal of the John Wick movies are its unrelenting, ultra-violent, theatrical action sequences. The practical stunts are known for being thrilling, propulsive and almost ballet-like in their choreography. It truly is a visual marvel.
But if you don't have the stomach for such bloodshed, and a body count in the high hundreds after three cinematic chapters, then John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is not for you.
Picking up moments after the second movie, John is running through the rain-soaked New York streets while the clock ticks down to 6pm. At 6pm, the bounty on his head is doubled to $14 million and it'll be open season on our titular antihero.
With only minutes to go, the situation is dire. Seems like every person in New York is secretly an assassin as mobile phones ping all around him.
The High Table - the cabal of people who govern the underworld of assassins - has decided John Wick has to die. No one crosses The High Table and gets away with it, and they've sent an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) to make sure John Wick and everyone who aided him is dealt with.
The Adjudicator also recruits a deadly assassin, Zero (actor and martial arts expert Mark Dacascos), to go after him.
There's a quick visit to the Director (Anjelica Huston) and a pop over to Morocco where ally Sofia (Halle Berry) and her two dogs and Berrada (Jerome Flynn), an Italian member of The High Table, reside.
Returning to the franchise are Ian McShane's Winston, the manager of the assassin safe ground The Continental, Lance Reddick as Charon and Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King.
The John Wick movies have never been restrained and this third instalment certainly elevates the action and the ambition.
You could describe its affect as "pummelling" - but since you signed up for its never-ending heart-pounding action set pieces, then you can't complain when you barely get a breather before the next tribe of assassins come running in, guns ablazing.
Director Chad Stahelski and his team have done well to vary the action, from a sequence in an antique weapons warehouse where sharp knives and axes fly into fleshy bodies with astonishing speed to a full-on assault weapons shootout where half the players are in bulletproof armour.
But the highlight has to be the frenzied climactic fight between John and Zero and his ninjas - set in an expansive and aesthetically impressive glass and neon multistorey gallery space where every surface is threatening to shatter upon contact.
The room is just one flank of the franchise's visual style with its neo-noir flair that now extends to Lawrence of Arabia homages. Everything about John Wick is weirdly artful.
If there's one bit that feels less grounded, it's the sequence involving Halle Berry and the dogs. While the use of the Mallinois pups in the sequence makes for interesting viewing, the whipfast pace of the shootout makes it seem weightless and less than believable.
And John Wick is a franchise that is predicated on the spectacle of its practical effects - even when there are that many no-name characters getting offed with such efficiency and speed, the movies always make it seem visually interesting and real.
When there are hundreds of deaths, it's pretty incredible that it sustains its inventiveness and its sheer bonkersness.
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is in cinemas from today.
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