A movie that starts with an NBA star being killed with a book sets the bar pretty high. And that was already a high bar with John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2, two of the best action films of the decade. But throughout the film, Keanu Reeves, director Chad Stahelski, and their incredible crew of stunt personnel keep finding ways to one-up themselves, and they pull it off every single time. It's awe-inspiring.
The previous film ended with Wick shooting the crime lord who betrayed him. But he did so at the Continental Hotel, where no "business" is allowed to take place. Thus, Wick is declared "excommunicado," and a bounty is placed on his head. So once again, he spends the movie on the run, dispatching dozens if not hundreds of other assassins out for the kill. With no resources and no friends, he turns to two women from his past (Oscar winners Anjelica Huston and Halle Berry), appealing to their humanity for assistance.
While the film's plot mechanics get a bit too twisty for their own good, the film is still briskly paced, even at over two hours. While some have complained this chapter drags between fight scenes, they're more of a way to catch your breath. The battles, even when overly choreographed, are breathtaking. They're even gorier this go-round, with more sword fights and knife play than before. I even cheered involuntarily early on, when Wick hides out in an antique store, but is forced to fend off a group of killers on the aisle with all the blades.
There's a big focus on "following the rules," as demonstrated by the uptight Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon). As the film goes on, and the High Table dishes out its own form of justice, it's clear the system has to be upended. But even though there's a massive a battle in the film's third act, it's clear the real repercussions are being saved for an inevitable Chapter 4. But that shouldn't have been surprising to someone (not me) who knew the subtitle Parabellum is Latin for "prepare for war."
While all the films in the series are excellent, this chapter has one distinct advantage over the other two: a real antagonist. The first had weak Alfie Allen, the second had the tougher but douchier Riccardo Scamarcio. But this one features Marc Dacascos, a real-life martial artist (and former Iron Chef America judge) who does have an army of trained killers, but can also take Wick mano e mano. He's also got a real personality, unlike his predecessors. While the outcome is never in doubt, Dacascos is another integral part of making the film such a wild, entertaining ride.