It’s a great week to be a dog lover at the movies. There’s puppy reincarnation in “A Dog’s Purpose” and puppy salvation in “John Wick: Chapter 3–Parabellum.” The third installment in a series that has given new meaning to “over the top.” In “Wick 3,” director Chad Stahelski also decides to give new meaning to “a closed book.” On the one hand, his quintessential hitman in bullet-proof suite speaks in taciturn. Bullets speak louder than words is the franchises unsung motto. On the other hand, fans will get to witness the first ever death by book. A spellbinding sequence in the annals of the New York Library that starts with a book and ends with the snapping of necks.
“Parabellum” in Latin translates to “Prepare for War,” so it’s safe to say that the neck snapping was inevitable. That and the fact that it’s a “John Wick” movie. The man (played by Keaunu Reeves) does more gloriously absurd killings than “The Kingsman” and more running than Tom Cruise (apparently downtown New York doesn’t have Ubers and Taxis?). No matter, the travel is a wonderful accessory in this vicious fantasy of infinite motion.
One example is a chase downtown. By now chase scenes are a familiar trope, but not the way it’s done here. The fluorescent streets of New York take the shape of a lava lamp. The curbside puddles reflecting floating neon lights as rain pours down like bullets. There’s also real bullets (lots of them!). As Wick gallops his way down Main Street on a horse, firing off rounds at the pursuing bikers. They’re after the 14 million dollar bounty on his head. Along with what we are told is “everyone.” Wick verse everyone? This time it might be a fair fight.
The whole film plays out like one giant fight scene. If this series has proven anything, it’s that no one ever truly retires. Wick’s perpetual escape from the world of underground assassin’s is our exquisite escapism. In 2014 his dog was put down by some seriously bad guys. Who would kill a dog you ask? Russians. In 2017 he got a new dog, as well as made some enemies at the High Table–top-dog criminals who own the sumptuous Continental Hotel and, who have labeled Wick “excommunicado”, banned from the help of his pals. (Laurence Fisburne returns as the king of the Bowery underworld. Ian McShane returns as the European-style hotel’s manager).
Now, having broken the High Table’s “rules,” he’s back on the run. After he drops off his dog of course. Don’t expect to catch your breath, though; the bodies aren’t going to stack themselves. The story travels from New York to Casablanca to the Sahara and back to New York. Putting pounding action to the pounding pace, these epic set pieces help give the unparalleled parabellum a heightened glamour.
The action is dance. Which, let’s be honest, is the only reason this movie even exists. To see Keaunu Reeves kill more men than there are sand grains in the Sahara. In that regard, this is a smashing success. Heads are smashed in, war dogs are unleashed and knifes connect with eyes. For many, this hard-R violence will be prove to be unwatchable. But for those who can admire the balletic choreography–staged by Stahelski, former stunt man turned director–this is fine entertainment.
I had a blast watching action so absurd it veers into comedy. So what if the plot is equally silly. The plot isn’t what matters here, it’s the action. Which is done so fluently and masterfully that we have to consider mass murder a crazed art. In a world where the bad guys are doing the shootings, it’s nice to see a good guy return the favor. And thankfully, thanks to an open book ending, Wick and the franchise should live on. The more books at Wick’s disposal the better.