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Review – John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum – “There is a certain point when you will genuinely think that a dog is going to shoot somebody”

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Written by Derek Kolstad (John Wick and John Wick 2) and directed by Chad Stahelski (both John Wick’s and apparently a new Highlander), John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum again stars Keanu Reeves (Point Break), Ian McShane (Deadwood) and Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix), joined by new additions Halle Berry (Swordfish), Anjelica Houston (The Addams Family) and Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones).

Picking up directly from the end of 2, John Wick 3 sees the legendary hitman (Reeves) and his pitbull on the run after being disavowed by the assassins guild, The High Table, for breaking the rules by killing someone in the sanctuary hotel owned by Winston (McShane).

Cut off from any help, Wick must call in a favour from “The Director” (Houston) so he can travel to Casablanca and bargain for his life with “The Elder” (Said TaghmaouiLa Haine). Meanwhile, an “Adjudicator” (Asia Kate DillonOrange is the New Black) arrives in town to charge the Bowery King (Fishburne) and Winston for aiding Wick last time around – sparking a civil war between those who operate above and below the table.

If this all sound overly complicated – it is. And it feels it, and the film suffers for it. The first film had exciting nods to the wider secret world that was expanded on a little in Part 2, but they still boiled down to John killing everyone for killing his puppy. Part 3 buckles beneath the weight of the series’ ever-expanding and frequently actually meaningless mythology.

The amazing fights and gunplay we came for are present, and the nonstop action and invention of the first third of the film is stunning: featuring a book beatdown versus a giant in a library, an unforgettable knife fight, and a shootout on horseback versus a motorcycle gang. It’s all extremely exciting, and the carnage reaches such levels of audacity and lunacy that there is a certain point when you will genuinely think that a dog is going to shoot somebody.

The addition of Sofia’s highly-trained puppers makes for a brilliantly bonkers sequence that is like a gunfight during a post-watershed Crufts. But, it is also made abundantly clear that Berry’s character is being set up for a potential spin-off. This feels rushed and clumsy and comes at the expense of us spending time with John. We don’t really know or care about Berry – or McShane and Fishburne, in the B storyline – and the sheer volume of all the non-John time makes for a film that is bloated and more intent on perpetuating the series and setting up a spin-off than staying true to why we all fell in love with these films and this character in the first place.

John Wick 3 is out now in the UK.

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