Keanu Reeves is gonna Wick your ass — over and over again.
The John Wick action series doesn’t get bogged down in such silly trivialities as character development, plot, dialogue, morals or any of the usual rubrics most films follow. Instead, these fun flicks are just loosely connected, extremely violent fight scenes starring Neo from “The Matrix.”
And why the hell not?
At the beginning of this super-macho third chapter, “Parabellum,” master hit man Wick grabs a library hardcover and uses it like nunchucks to bludgeon a thug to death, leaving the victim covered in, um, bookmarks. Badass. He later winds up, quite conveniently, in a rare sword and gun warehouse where most of his opponents get blades rammed through their skulls. Awesome. Wick then rides a horse down a busy road in Queens and shoots a guy driving in the other lane. A New York road rage fantasy.
At this point in director Chad Stahelski’s film, blood has been spilled but hardly a word has been uttered. All we know is that Wick has been made “excommunicado” by the High Table, a top-secret crime syndicate, and the price his ideally dead body carries is $14 million. Because Wick killed a man on protected grounds — New York’s Continental Hotel, ruled over by Ian McShane’s Winston — he’s now fair game for the world’s assassins.
Thanks to his old pal the Director (Anjelica Huston), who runs a strange hybrid of assassin training camp and ballet school, Wick gets a pass to leave the country safely. In Casablanca, he meets up with Sofia (Halle Berry), a femme fatale with whom he has a vague past. (Everything in this trilogy is blissfully underdeveloped.)
Then comes a skirmish that will leave PETA members howling with delight: Wick and Sofia off hundreds of Moroccan baddies with the help of two trusty pups who treat the dudes’ heads like chew toys. It’s a cuddly-wuddly bloodbath!
Reeves is an actor with one expression: “Huh?” And that slack-jawed handsomeness works for only so many movies. It certainly landed in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” “Speed” and “The Matrix,” but it can feel wrong for films in which wit or emotion is needed. That’s why John Wick is the ideal character for him: Minus any depth or wit, he keeps silently punching and kicking, and we keep clapping and popping our popcorn.
What’s unexpected for a blood-and-guts movie, such as “Parabellum” (which means prepare for war in Latin), is the visual panache and artfulness with which it’s filmed. The alleyways, bunkers and lairs are inordinately pleasant to the eye — beautiful, even. The scenery has a neon-colored, art exhibit look to it: particularly, the final battlefield, the all-glass battlefront and that bonkers ballet stage.
Berry is also doing her best work in years. After slumming it up in films such as “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” and “Kidnap,” here she’s back to being a formidable action star — can you believe it’s been 17 years since “Die Another Day”? — and the sexy enigma we’ve long loved.
The plot of “John Wick 3” won’t surprise you, but the movie will.