Keanu Reeves’s aggrieved assassin is back for another riotous kick-punch-shoot-repeat action gem.
‘Prepare for war,’ someone who knows Latin will tell you, if you ask about that subtitle, though it’s hardly necessary intel: In these gloriously dumb – but remarkably well-staged –gun-fu movies, the war is already here and it lasts the entire film. Maybe others like it when Keanu Reeves talks. He’s more effective when he moves. His somber suit-clad NYC assassin has become his signature role, stripping down ‘Speed’ and ‘The Matrix’ into something John Woo sleek. Mob thugs killed his pet pit bull in the first film. Those guys are long gone. Even though the latest John Wick brings on the usual distractions – Ian McShane’s fruity boutique-hotel proprietor, Lawrence Fishburne’s king of the Bowery underworld, Halle Berry as a lady with vicious dogs that leap straight for the crotch – mostly these characters stay out of the way.
We’re here for the rigorously conceived, blessedly coherent takedowns, the work of director Chad Stahelski (also Reeves’s longtime stunt double and choreographer). Stahelski is a fight-scene Fosse and Reeves is his Gwen Verdon: ‘Parabellum’ takes the hall-of-mirrors high style of the second film and pushes it into overdrive.
The level of hard-R-rated bloodletting is so delirious, you’ll smile at how bad it is for you. A closed Manhattan Bridge is the perfect site for a sword duel on speeding motorcycles. Put Wick on a horse and he’s more of a menace than John Wayne on a grouchy day. In one fight, so many knives are flung, they need to use a corpse for a pin cushion. It’s the golden age of something – please don’t make us explain it. This is a fever dream of an action movie: you’ll emerge from it blissfully punch-drunk.
Cast and crew