When an actor is gifted with a role he was born to play and makes the most of the opportunity, the audience benefits as much as he does.
Keanu Reeves may be one of the luckiest actors in Hollywood more than 30 years into his career. He’s just announced his third go-round as Bill in the “Bill and Ted” flicks, played Neo in the “Matrix” trilogy, and he’s currently on his third “John Wick” movie.
The latter two franchises have been perfect for his minimalist acting sensibilities as Reeves’ monotone delivery plays just right, especially in the newest entry, “John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum.” It isn’t long on dialogue, but for action-film junkies it produces some of the most awe-inspiring sequences, be they chase scenes or fights, in recent memory.
Sure, Reeves receives top billing, but those moments of mayhem provide pure adrenaline that produces a movie high. Part of the film’s charm is that it knows exactly what it is — a cinematic comic book with a skimpy plot, a cool look and an absolutely dry sense of humor running throughout the narrative.
When we left Wick, an assassin who managed to get out of the game, only to be drawn back in after the tragic death of his wife, he had become the hunted after killing a member of the High Table, the shadowy organized crime syndicate that deals in death for whom he worked.
With an escalating bounty on his head, which began at $14 million, every assassin in New York City and beyond is looking for him. They also want a word with the individuals who helped Wick in the last chapter — Winston (Ian McShane), the owner-operator of the hit man haven Continental Hotel, and Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne).
The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon of “Billions") comes calling with orders to take them out. But where’s Wick? He’s on his own spiritual journey in search of absolution and another chance from The Elder (Said Taghmaoui), the leader of the High Table. His penance for that? Take out Winston. Cue the amped-up score and watch the blood and the guts spray.
“John Wick 3” wants only to entertain, and in that regard, it succeeds. In fact, it’s amazing the franchise, which continues to thrive despite the expectations that it would be a one-and-done endeavor, hasn’t run out of steam.
Director Chad Stahelski has helmed all three films in this series and deserves credit for not toying too much with success. The movie breezes by, primarily because the pacing is relentless and serves as a jolt to viewers' senses.
To his credit, he and the film’s writer found a part for Cleveland native Halle Berry, who earns her action bona fides. Her acerbic, acid-tongued Sophia, a former friend who owes Wick, adds some freshness to the franchise that wasn’t necessarily needed, but is certainly appreciated.
“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” is a thrilling popcorn flick worthy of a look.
George Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.