In the new “John Wick” movie there’s this particular way Keanu Reeves whisks shells into the chamber of his shotgun that’s like physical Shakespeare, or some kind of crazy gun-toting ballet.
This sort of thing basically takes up the entirety of “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum,” which is good, because you don’t want to focus too much on plot or dialogue. The film’s 130 minutes are a compendium of guns (“lots of guns”), knives, axes, swords and a couple of determined dogs, only occasionally interrupted by people talking.
This works out well for Keanu Reeves. An actor of limited means when it comes to speaking words, he’s honed his physical skills over the years so that his frequent hand-to-hand fisticuffs (and even the way he lurches exhaustedly down the sidewalk while chased by relentless pursuers) speaks much more vividly than his blessedly sparse dialogue.
We pick up from the end of the previous “John Wick” picture, and find the title assassin with a price on his head — $14 million, to be precise. He’s a talented killing machine, but almost everybody wants in on the bounty.
You will recall that the John Wick universe contains a secret society of collegial, rule-honoring assassins. Banned from the New York hotel where members can gather in peace, where even the manager (Ian McShane) can no longer help him, Mr. Wick must turn elsewhere.
This includes seeking out a witchy former mentor (Anjelica Huston, getting into the spirit of things), a colleague in Casablanca (a high-kicking Halle Berry) who owes Wick a favor, and some kind of sheik (Said Taghmaoui) in North Africa.
All are part of the secret system. The movie also brings back Laurence Fishburne, to summon up some old “Matrix” energy with his former co-star, and brings in Asia Kate Dillon (from “Billions”) as a weirdly affectless company enforcer.
The best new addition is Mark Dacascos, as an opponent whose skills make a worthy match to the nearly indestructible Wick. Their climactic battle takes place in a hall of very breakable glass cases. It’s a gas.
We learn more about John Wick’s background, and about the odd amulets and meaningful gold coins used by the society. I have to say that the more we learn, the less cool the secret world becomes; it’s more tantalizing when you only hazily understand it.
Director Chad Stahelski and cinematographer Dan Laustsen create a vividly colorful world, which makes “John Wick: Chapter 3” more fun to look at than all the gritty action flicks that favor a boring blue-monochrome look.
The stunts, of course, are flabbergasting, and the violence unrelenting. I’ve always liked the fact that Reeves doesn’t look like he pumps a lot of iron to get into the role; it makes John Wick’s skill-set all the more otherworldly.
So, a pretty enjoyable outing if you like this kind of head-crunching insanity. But at this point, the possibility of another chapter (and it comes across as more of a guarantee than a possibility) feels less promising than before. “John Wick” is already repeating itself by the time we’re halfway through this one, and Keanu Reeves isn’t getting any younger.
“John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum” (3 stars)
This head-crunching action picture picks up where the last one left off, as professional assassin Wick (Keanu Reeves) tries to avoid a bounty on his head. The film shoots violence like ballet, and the blessedly monosyllabic Reeves is joined by a lively crew: Mark Dacascos, Halle Berry, Anjelica Huston.
Rating: R, for violence
Opening Friday: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Seattle 1o, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall