ALEXANDRIA, VA- All this because of a puppy? The third installment of the tireless terminator John Wick franchise is a long-awaited release starring the indomitable and preternaturally stoic Keanu Reeves. Rumor has it that John Wick has more than once killed three men with a pencil. Or was it a dozen? The body count for John Wick 3: Parabellumis expected to be the highest yet. And the bloodiest.
The saga began in Part One when retired hitman extraordinaire John Wick, shortly after burying his wife Helen, received her gift from the grave. It was “something to love,” an adorable beagle puppy named Daisy. Soon thereafter, Isoef Tarasov (Game of Thrones’ Alfie Allen), the son of Russian crime czar Viggo Tarasov, takes a shine to Wick’s 1969 Ford Mustang GT.
Some things aren’t for sale. And some Russian mobsters can’t take no for an answer. Isoef Tarasov returns with his crew, beats up Wick, kills Daisy, and steals the car. A distraught Wick jackhammers the basement floor, wherein lies buried every weapon employed throughout the internecine battles for his very soul. John Wick is back, embarking on a 90-minute rampage of revenge and retributory apocalypse amid the underworld of an indeterminate 21st century NYC.
By the end of John Wick 1, he has avenged his puppy as well as his friend and assassin-colleague Marcus (Willem Dafoe), and eliminated the Russian mob boss’s leverage and life, limping off into the rainy night without his Mustang but with a rescued Pit Bull puppy.
John Wick 2 begins when he retrieves his muscle car, wrecking the classic ride in the process, declaring “Mir” (“peace” in Russian) to the heir of the Russian racketeering throne.
But past life transgressions come knocking, calling in a marker. John refuses the plea. “You don’t want me owing you,” is Wick’s credo. Then the Italian “High Table” crime syndicate kingpin makes him an offer he can’t refuse, blowing up Wick’s house, barely sparing the nameless dog and John’s life. Once more, John digs up the arsenal in what remains of the basement.
The message in the John Wick series isn’t so much “make-my-day” vigilantism as the “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in again” lament of Michael Corleone in Godfather 3. He’s a reluctant anti-hero. Parabellum means prepare for war in Latin. John Wick continually needs guns. Lots of them. Yet the underlying message is Wick’s desperate quest for peace. Si vis pacem, para vellum. If you want peace, prepare for war. John Wick is a man of focus, commitment, sheer will. As prepared as a Boy Scout.
Dog lovers propelled to cheer on John Wick’s vendetta for the heart-wrenching, wanton killing of Daisy the beagle will be more than satisfied with the pup posse saving the day in Parabellum. Does Wick’s dog get a name at last? Inquiring John Wick Fido fans want to know.
Parabellum begins where John Wick 2 ended, with Keanu Reeves and his faithful canine companion sprinting through Central Park in autumn. It is a thrilling game of lethal tag. The bounty on John Wick’s head has climbed to $12 million. He’s more wanted than The Fugitive and John Wilkes Booth combined.
Last fall, New Yorkers were treated to the startling vision of Keanu Reeves on horseback, galloping into the night, when they were filming in the Big Apple.
A relentless chase, over six hours total so far, might otherwise render John Wick a plotless premise, but creator Derek Kolstad and Director Chad Stahelski have formulated a compelling character and an engaging storyline. Reeves was born for the part. The eponymous redeemer assassin isn’t invulnerable. John Wick bleeds. He’s a credible, plaintive victim of circumstance, a classic tragic antihero racked with Shakespearean angst. Reeves delivers the anguished performance of a wounded man lost in an immorality play, who just wants to be left alone at long last. Still there’s a lot of “Run, John! Run!” For Parabellum, as with all John Wick flicks: There’s only one way this is going to end.
John Wick 3: Parabellum is rated R for extreme, graphic violence and adult language.