Some movies you just know what you’re gonna get. The third outing of dog avenging killing machine John Wick (Keanu Reeves) was always going to be a relentless action juggernaut moving from one set piece to the next. This ain’t a movie with a lot of nuance, or depth. This is a thrill ride, and a damn fine one.
It picks up just after Chapter 2. Wick has blown away an enemy within the Continental, the shady New York hotel which hosts the assassins and criminals who visit the Big Apple. The Continental, part of an organisation run by the mysterious High Table, is neutral ground and no violence is allowed. Having broken the rules, Wick is marked for death.
Manager of the hotel, Winston (Ian McShane) tells him there’s a bounty on his head but allows him an hour head start before the contract to kill goes live. John starts the film on the run with the clock ticking.
What follows is John having to defeat some of the folks looking to claim the cash, and calling in old favours to try and get out of town. He wants to meet the top man and see if he can do some kind of deal.
Of course, John isn’t gonna go down without a fight and since we saw him go out for justice on the scumbag who killed his dog, we know that he is a skilled ass kicker.
While John looks for a way out a mysterious Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) arrives in New York, to sort things for the High Table. Winston, and several others who helped John are on deadly ground, as they are forced to pay for breaking the rules which say John lost all his priviliges.
The action is bone crunching good fun with brutal brawls and some wonderfully OTT gunplay. Wick’s major strength seems to be that he’s hard to kill and takes a lot of punishment. Keanu Reeves is effortlessly cool in a role with sparse dialogue, wading into battle with a variety of weapons and leaving a trail of dead behind him.
Wick is driven by a resolve to survive even if this takes him into the belly of the beast.
Despite the ferocity of the violence (I winced a few times), the movie is largely just fun. Partly because it takes place in a sort of comic book world. The violence is extreme but there’s no moping or broodiness afterwards. It’s violence as entertainment and the slight unreality of the universe helps.
Secret societies, public shootouts without consequences and shady, omniscient cabals mean this never feels like the real world, meaning you never get distracted by thoughts of the fallout and or thoughts of realism. The executive decision to make it disconnected from the real world is a clever one. The over the top nature of the film works in this vaccuum, stopping any “oh, come on!” Moments that happen when grounded in reality movies push it too far.
The cast are great across the board and this is the best performance I’ve seen from Halle Berry in years, partly as its all surface.
Lawrence Fishburne, Angelica Huston and McShane all seem to be enjoying their supporting roles, especially McShane who plays Winston with an unflappable air who remains cool even when under siege by enemy forces. Fishburne’s swaggering, bombastic crime lord is a delight too.
There’s dark humour, quirky supporting characters and a seemingly endless series of inventive ways for henchmen to buy the farm. Sometimes you get action fatigue in movies, but this one didn’t do that thanks to a variety of different types of fights and creative violence.
A rollercoaster of action that barely stops and entertains throughout.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
P.S. I slipped in about half a dozen Steven Segal movie titles into this, how many did you spot?
P.P.S. Wrote this review on my phone on a train so apologies for spelling errors.