It helps when going in to “John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum” (Lionsgate), starring Keanu Reeves in the title role,to know that “para bellum” is a reference to preparing (“para”) for war (“bellum”). This is useful because, as we find out, John Wick means war.
When we last saw dog and vintage car-loving widower Wick (Reeves), the indestructible hit man with a heart of gold bullion, in 2017’s “John Wick 2”, he was about an hour away from certain death. His grace period was winding down and there was a $14-million-dollar bounty on his head. Why? Because, in the safe space of New York’s Continental hotel, in front of the venue’s manager Winston (Ian McShane), he killed the twisted Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), the man who held Wick’s mark. D’Antonio, who hired Wick to kill his sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini) so he could take her place at the crime underworld’s “high table” under the pretense of erasing the mark, betrayed Wick, leading to the assassin becoming excommunicado.
With his nameless (and affectionate) dog being looked after by faithful concierge Charon (Lance Reddick), Wick makes his way to the New York Public Library where he not only retrieves necessary valuables to arrange his safe passage, but also faces Ernest (Barban Marjanovic) the first of his serious death threats. Of course, he dispenses with him handily, and then hightails it out of there, leading to a series of chases, including one in Chinatown.
As the bounty rises to $15-million-dollars, Wick arrives at his destination, a theater and training space run by Russian mob boss The Director (Angelica Huston). While she’s helping him arrange travel to Casablanca, The Adjudicator (gender non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon), sent by the people at the “high table” pays a visit to Winston.
They deliver the news that, because of what occurred with Wick in the Continental, Winston has been given seven days to relinquish control and vacate the hotel. The Adjudicator also pays a visit to the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne, reunited with his “Matrix” co-star Reeves, once again), and also gives him seven days to abdicate his thrown because he also provided aid to Wick. The adjudicator also has a brutal moment with The Director.
Wick, who is now in Casablanca, meets with fellow assassin Sophia (Halle Berry). Wick has a marker on Sophia, and after serious wrangling, convinces her to help him meet with her superior Berrada (Jerome Flynn), who in turn may be able to assist him on his quest to meet with the most-high so that he may clear his name.
What follows is a long, hot walk through the desert (in a black suit, no less), the loss of a finger, fealty sworn, punishment doled out, the attack of a ninja army, lots of broken glass and bones and bloodshed. All of which Wick survives in the most remarkable fashion. Can you say “John Wick IV”?
Stuntman turned director Chad Stahelski delivers even more of the choreographed, ultra-violent, video-game quality fight sequences than he did in previous Wick flicks. Some go on way too long, but for the most part they are riveting and are sure to make for than a few viewers squirm in their seats. The addition of humor goes a long way in making some of the intensity more bearable. Reeves’ Wick manages to simultaneously remind us of and make us forget Neo in “The Matrix” series. “John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum” is top-notch summer entertainment (and it’s not three hours long).