There are three kinds of people in the world.
Dog people. Cat people. And people who like watching dog people shoot, stab and slaughter hundreds on the big screen.
The “John Wick” franchise caters to the latter demographic. And boy, will they be delighted with the third film in the series.
“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” offers some of the most arresting violence ever captured on screen. It’s almost gorgeous in its depravity. Oh, yes, there’s a story here and the semblance of logic. Don’t be fooled. The film exists solely for those eye-popping action sequences.
They never disappoint.
When we last left John Wick (Keanu Reeves), he had broken the sacred rules governing his not-so-noble profession. “Parabellum” opens with countless hit men eager to collect the $14 million bounty on John’s wet, scraggly head.
And, apparently, they lurk around every street corner and library nook.
Within five minutes we’ve witnessed a slugfest so intense we’re still cringing in our seats minutes after it ends. That’s the franchise’s monkey trick, to steal a line from Dennis Miller. “John Wick” action is hard to watch and impossible to ignore. It’s inhumane, yet the stunts flow with such grace and humor it’s never meant to be taken seriously.
Yes, people are expiring in front of our eyes, but the mayhem packs a “Fast & Furious” style detachment.
John escapes that first skirmish but isn’t sure how to reverse his fortunes. He ends up reteaming with an old frenemy (Halle Berry, an outstanding action heroine) who nudges him in the right direction.
Of course, she’s a dog person, too.
Her pups factor heavily into “Chapter 3,” which should have been sub-titled “No Groins Are Safe.”
The rest is a mashup of pompous declarations about The Continental, the secure home where the assassin go to unwind. We’re also treated to large coins being passed about as markers for goods, services and safe haven.
Anjelica Huston shows up, too briefly, to class up the joint and suffer some “Wick”-style punishment.
It’s all rather silly, but Reeves and co. treat the material with affection. That matters.
So, too, does the strong supporting cast, including Ian McShane and the great Lance Reddick. They’re back for more “Wick” antics, giving the series a patina of dignity. So does “Billions” co-star Asia Kate Dillon as a mystery figured trying to untie all the knots left from the second “John Wick” adventure.
“John Wick: Chapter 3” is deadly serious one moment, and then goofy to the point of guffaws the next. It also takes great pains to expand the world of the High Table, the assassin’s guild in play, only to jettison key rules a few scenes later.
The biggest howler? A shadowy figure suggests John fix his predicament with a plan so outlandish it’s clearly a joke. Then, John does as told … and it all works out.
Is the franchise trolling us at this point?
Then again, we’ll roll with the absurdities when the villains are so intriguing (Mark Dacascos) and the action blissfully brutal.
There’s a moment deep in the film where we think John might let us look within his tortured soul. The bullets stop flying, and Reeves gets the chance to truly emote. John still mourns his late wife, and his will to survive suggests more than mere survival instincts.
Yet when he shares what keeps him going the answer is so unconvincing our brains switch back off and we wait for the next bravura action scene.
Thankfully, the wait is never long.
HiT or Miss: “John Wick 3: Parabellum” speaks directly to the franchise’s fan base. That’s either music to your cinematic ears or a dire warning. Proceed as you must.