John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has killed some people in some pretty inventive ways. A certain pencil kill comes to mind from chapter two. In John Wick 3: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, he makes what is certain to be his most iconic kill to date. On the run from just about every assassin on the planet, Wick has a few moments before the contract on his head goes live. He runs to a library where he has some helpful items stored away in an old book. A lunk of a man decides no one will quibble if he kills Wick a few minutes early. Wick disposes of him using the book in a gleefully violent manner and then puts the book back on the shelf, reminding us that Wick is a man of class. Thus kicks off the most fun and giddy thrill-ride of the summer.
The first 45-minutes of Chapter 3 are relentless, showcasing the inspired style of Chad Stahelski, stunt coordinator turned director who has made all three films in the series. A whole lot of credit should go to Stahelski. He knows not only how to stage a riveting and creative action sequence but he also knows how to shoot it. There is a crisp clarity to how the brutality on-screen plays out that is increasingly rare in action films, I am looking at you Marvel. The skill on display is never lost in shaky camera moves or dark lighting. It is a glorious reminder of how action should be shot, much like Mad Max: Fury Road or the previous Wick films.
Picking up the moment after Chapter 2 ends, Wick is on the run after being "excommunicado" from the High Table that runs the league of assassins. A $14 million bounty is put on his head and thus Wick becomes the most wanted target by every assassin. Wick decides he must track down the leader of the High Table in order to make an offer to atone him of his rule-breaking action at the end of Chapter 2. He gets help along the way from his usual colleagues and some new faces including his onetime mentor (Anjelica Huston) and former killer Sofia (Halle Berry). On his trail is The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) who is punishing those that have helped Wick. This includes his old pal Winston (Ian McShane) and The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne).
Each Wick sequel has expanded upon the world of the original. Each film also continues to raise the bar for stellar set pieces of wild action that borders on high art. That may sound like lofty praise for an action film but it is earned. The Wick films play out like a ballet of blood, broken bones and bullets. They reach operatic heights in absurdity but also ground the action with Wick himself. At the end of the day, he is a man who loved his wife and loves his dog and just wants to live his life. It makes him instantly appealing and continually relatable. Reeves has found his most career defining character here that allows him to play up his lumbering physicality and love for martial arts without complicating things to the point of confusion like in the Matrix trilogy.
Chapter 3 is also regularly funny. If the first film was pure revenge and somewhat solemn, this one is lighter in tone. It makes for what is currently the best film of the summer.