Movie review: John Wick: Chapter 3 shows the joy of violence
Chapter 3 hurts.
There is a real joy in the John Wick films because the stunt work is so stunning and creative.
They know there is something wonderful about watching henchman after hapless henchman dispatched by the glorious Keanu Reeves.
In some territories, the film's title adds the Latin phrase "Parabellum", meaning "prepare for war".
Another Latin option could have been "rideat ad mortem", or "laugh at death".
It is near impossible to not let out a chuckle as some thug's forehead meets the pointy end of a throwing knife. (Do not try it at home, kids).
In John Wick time, the events of the past two films happened over the course of the past week.
And here we are - John cast out, desperate to find allies, unleashing inventive death as he goes.
The opening chase, through an antique store, then a stable, and then on horseback through a gorgeous rain-slicked New York is a thrill ride in itself.
And who would not want to join in?
Jumping on board this time is veteran martial artist Mark Dacascos as the lead nemesis (who is also a bit of a fanboy in the presence of Wick) and Oscar-winners Halle Berry and Anjelica Huston.
The franchise also retains the ability to shock.
And yet, this sequel made me miss the simplicity of the first instalment.
They killed John Wick's dog, he wants to kill them all in return. The cause felt wholesome. The action felt direct and taut.
But for the third chapter, it feels a little too in love with the skills on display. The film is over two hours and it is obvious where the extra minutes go.
Director Chad Stahelski, formerly Reeves' stunt double, proudly lets the fight choreography play out with as few cuts as possible. It can be exhilarating, even hypnotic. At first.
Later, it comes at the cost of pace and story, and there is a point where you just want the film to get on with it.
It becomes less of a film and more of a showreel.
The longer and clearer the fight scenes are, the more daylight is let in on the magic.
That said, it is still fun. Reeves does his thing, Ian McShane works his roguish charm at an Olympic standard and we get more Lance Reddick.
It is clear that there will be a fourth chapter. Hopefully it regains the punch of the first film before it gets too punch-drunk.