A Film Review by Tim Riley

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3- PARABELLUM (Rated R) The “John Wick” franchise has provided Keanu Reeves with the perfect opportunity to seamlessly merge his cinematic persona with the taciturn intensity of the titular character letting action speak louder than words.

Reeves’ assassin John Wick, who wanted to be left alone to seek a quiet life in which to remember his wife, re-entered the killing fields in the first film when mob-connected Russian thugs cruelly killed his beloved dog.

Since then, and more so now with “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” Wick has seemingly dispatched more bad guys to their deaths than what feels like the cumulative total of the body count in all of the James Bond, Jason Bourne, and “Rambo” films combined.

There is no exaggeration to the analogy that “John Wick 3” is running on adrenaline-fueled action so overheated that the film’s pace moves like a race car redlining to maximum speed.

At the end of the previous film, Wick killed an Italian mobster at the Continental hotel, a sanctuary for assassins where the unbreakable rule of the underworld is that no blood may be shed on the premises.

The third installment picks up with Wick having only an hour before he is declared in the words of Winston (Ian McShane), the Continental’s manager, to be “excommunicado” with a $14 million bounty on his head.

The code of the underworld is governed by the High Table, a council of high-ranking crime lords, who mete out their own brand of justice, sending the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) as the enigmatic messenger of their decisions.

Desperately running through rainy streets, Wick ends up in the New York Public Library only to be attacked in the stacks by a towering giant (NBA player Boban Marjanovic) in a fight settled by the imaginative use of a classic book.

The streets are so perilous that it almost seems as if every other random person is a contract killer eager for a big payday. In no time, Wick is chased through alleys and subways, ending up in a stable before riding a horse across a bridge pursued by a deadly motorcycle gang.

Not everyone has turned on Wick, though even the doctor who tends to his wounds fears that he cannot hide his transgression from enforcers of the High Table’s dictates.

Less concerned is the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), who dares to render assistance to the fugitive assassin, convinced, perhaps foolishly, that his turf is safe from any meddling by the cabal of crime lords.

Reverting to his Belarusian roots, Wick calls in a marker with the inscrutable Director (Anjelica Huston), his former mentor who now trains ballerinas and martial artists, so that he can get safe passage to Casablanca.

Once in Morocco, his old colleague Sofia (Halle Berry), who runs the local branch of the Continental, is less than happy to see a wanted man to whom she owes a favor, but she does oblige in a big way.

Wick’s quest is to find the leader of the High Table in order to negotiate his return to the good graces of the ranks of professional killers, for peace of mind and to set foot on the Continental grounds once again.

With the help of Sofia and her pair of vicious German shepherds, Wick visits Berrada (Jerome Flynn), a power broker who can reveal the location of the High Table hideaway of the Elder (Said Taghmaoui).

But before trekking across the Saharan desert to see the Elder, a pitched battle with Berrada’s turban-wearing minions pits Wick, Sofia and the canines in another wild set piece of deadly confrontation.

Meanwhile, back in Manhattan the Adjudicator is delivering punishment to those who dared help Wick to escape New York and enlisting the sushi-chef Zero (Mark Dacascos), a skilled knife fighter, for the climactic bloody skirmish.

Fittingly, the setting of the final showdown is inside the Continental, where first of all Winston and the hotel’s unflappable concierge Charon (Lance Reddick) must choose sides between Wick and the High Table’s army of warriors.

Above all, Wick understands that “parabellum” is part of a Latin adage that translates into “prepare for war,” and he is always ready to employ his lethal skills for the next challenge even when having to cleverly improvise with whatever can be used as weapons.

Keanu Reeves’s John Wick is an unstoppable force of nature, his fight scenes choreographed so brilliantly that “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” is the most operatic of action films in recent memory, if not ever.

It takes much more than well-orchestrated fighting movements on the part of Keanu Reeves to make the “John Wick” franchise so exciting. The actor inhabits the role so perfectly that he is truly indispensable and irreplaceable to its success.

Fans of the “John Wick” franchise are going to be thrilled with the spectacular stunts and the surfeit of breathless fights with guns, swords, and the martial arts, even when a few scenes are shockingly brutal and gruesome.

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