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10th May 2019

John Wick 3 is one of the most ridiculously fun action movies in years

Wil Jones

God bless Keanu

It is unlikely that many people had John Wick tagged as a full-blown action film phenomenon when the first movie surfaced. Keanu Reeves was still an A-lister, but he was over a decade on from The Matrix. On paper, it was a generic looking mid-budget thriller, made without a studio, and on the surface, it was not impossible to see him slipping to straight-to-DVD purgatory like Nic Cage.

And then people saw the film. It really was a revenge movie where the guy was just trying to find the people who killed his dog. It had this strange, unexplained lore, that the movie just expected you go along with, without any handholding. And of course, there was the wonderfully clean, utterly thrilling action, shot in clear, long takes. In an age of CGI-heavy superhero movies and frantic editing ripping fight scenes to shreds, John Wick was a revelation.

What is also strange though is how that first movie now looks relatively quaint compared to the sprawling fever dream of its second sequel. John Wick: Chapter 2 upped the ante, bringing a kaleidoscopic, surreal quality to the action and expanding on the world of The Continental and The High Table. But John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum takes things so, so much further.

It starts right where Chapter 2 left off – with Wick and his new dog racing around New York, about to be excommunicated for killing on Continental grounds. Unlike the slow burn of the first movie, this literally hits the ground running, with Wick being stalked through the Big Apple in a race against the clock by a series of evermore crazy assassins trying to claim the $14 million bounty on his head. A battle in museum corridor filled with axes and throwing knives would be the main course of most action movies – here it is just the hors d’oeuvres.

Eventually, Wick makes his way to Morocco, where meets with Halle Berry and her incredible squad of badass German Shepherds (this movie definitely has the best dog-based action sequence in the history of cinema). And then he walks up a massive sand dune in the desert in a suit. Just because.

If there is a complaint to be made against John Wick 3, it’s that it can sometimes less a film, more just a loose thread to hang all the set-pieces on. But that’s basically the point. Everything is dripping with style. The thunderous downpour in Times Square. The sweltering Morroco backstreets. The aforementioned wandering around the desert in an immaculate suit. Wonderful actors like Anjelica Huston, Laurence Fishburn, Halle Berry, and of course, Ian McShane, turn up to deliver spectacular nonsense monologues between shoot-outs, then disappear. The film is just so much damn fun.

It is again helmed by former stuntman-turned-director (and Keanu’s stunt-double on The Matrix) Chad Stahelski, who has always choreographed wonderful action – but here he puts together maybe the greatest team of henchman ever assembled to handle the fights. Headed up by DTV icon and IRL kung fu champion Mark Dacascos, they include The Raid‘s Yayan Ruhian, 7ft 3 basketball star Boban Marjanović, and Keanu Reeves’ own martial arts teacher Tiger Chen.

Of course though, at the centre of it all, is Keanu. He is maybe the first proper movie star we’ve had since Wesley Snipes in his prime to truly feel like a real martial artist on screen. Thanks to the series’ trademark long takes, you can tell that it really is Keanu doing most of the fights, not a stunt double doing the hard work while he sits in his trailer tweeting.

The airhead Keanu of old, the one we thought was just playing himself in Bill & Ted, who stumbled through the pseudo-intellectual gibberish of The Matrix sequels and ‘Woah’-ed his way through Point Break, has now truly been replaced by a grizzled icon. A simple man who just wants his car and his dog, and now those are gone, he doesn’t care who he fucks up.

John Wick 3 is just such a blast. It is a movie that just keeps moving forward with thunderous momentum, constantly throwing things out. Why do these assassins have a Michelin-starred sushi bar hidden in a dank food truck? No time to think about that, John Wick is now killing dudes in by having a horse kick them in the face, and now he’s riding that horse on a chase through New York. John Wick 3 might not really stand up to heavy scrutiny, but it is pure cinema.