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John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum review – franchise bloat for Keanu Reeves’ hitman | Film

Parabellum. That’s Latin, innit? And like everything about Keanu Reeves and stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski’s neck-snappingly violent franchise, starring Reeves as an ex-hitman, the title smacks of delusional grandeur and a faintly ludicrous baroque pulpiness. This is the only action movie you’ll see this year featuring the death of a bad guy battered to death with

Parabellum. That’s Latin, innit? And like everything about Keanu Reeves and stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski’s neck-snappingly violent franchise, starring Reeves as an ex-hitman, the title smacks of delusional grandeur and a faintly ludicrous baroque pulpiness.

This is the only action movie you’ll see this year featuring the death of a bad guy battered to death with a rare volume of 18th-century Russian folklore in the aisle of a library. As per the two previous films, Stahelski cranks up the body count with a string of fight sequences so balletic you might forget you’re watching violence – until Reeves sinks a knife into a man’s eye. But, three movies in, franchise bloat is beginning to set in; the dead dog jokes are definitely wearing thin.

We’re still only weeks from the events of the first movie, when John Wick came blazing out of retirement in New Jersey to dish out vengeance on thugs who killed the puppy that was a final gift from his dying wife. Wick is now excommunicated from the Continental, the contract killers’ private members’ club, and the shadowy council of crime bosses has put a $14m bounty on his head. And for the first time we get a little nibble of backstory as Wick goes back to his beginnings in the underworld at a Russian theatre in New York where the icy owner is deliciously played by Anjelica Huston.

Where you stand on the John Wick movies depends a lot on how you rate Reeves’s sphinx-like acting. In the first movie, he occasionally twitched a muscle to indicate Wick’s intense grief; here he keeps his face statue-still. Personally, I can project oceans of depth on to Reeves’s Zen-like blankness – picturing him reading battered Penguin classics on his days off, say. You buy him as a man whose soul has been scooped out by sadness. But, if you are of the opinion that his expressionlessness conceals a stolid bore, it just won’t work.



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Susan E. Lopez
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