We know by now that John Wick (Keanu Reeves, wearing stubble and an increasingly machete‑slashed black suit) is not in the business of taking prisoners. And neither, it seems, is the production design team of this riotous, relentless third installment.
It’s not just the violence that’s excessive. Pretty much every frame is a flying kick to the senses.
The distinctive aesthetic – a kind of hi-tech baroque, with a touch of fetishy transgression for good measure – is not the only reason that this action series punches above its weight. But it is a significant factor.
After all, a fight scene is a fight scene, even one featuring some of the most highly skilled martial arts practitioners in the world (look out for purveyors of Indonesian tower-block carnage from The Raid).
But put a fight scene in a room stacked with antique ceremonial knives, or in a glass room displaying nothing but crystal skulls, and there’s a whole new level of spectacle to be explored.
And spectacle, rather than internal logic, has always been what the John Wick movies do best.
Chapter 3 takes over where the second film left off, with the whole of New York a ticking clock counting down the minutes until Wick is rendered “excommunicado”.
Once his status is officially downgraded, he becomes persona non grata within the shadowy underworld governed by the criminal council, the High Table. More importantly, there’s a $14 m bounty on his head.
Even so, Wick manages to trade on his birthright to beg a favor from ballet mistress and gang boss, the Director (Anjelica Huston, all languid cruelty and sneered lines).
The favor sends Wick to Casablanca, and the weakest segment of the movie involving Halle Berry, dog peril and a wearisome gunfight. Wick is a man who can kill a 7 ft assassin using just a library book.
Seeing him scurrying around a Moroccan bazaar brandishing a firearm seems rather basic. Fortunately, he’s soon back on US soil doing what he does best – dispatching his foes in a variety of creatively agonizing methods.
“Art is pain. Life is suffering,” growls Huston. But the latest installment of John Wick makes an art of pain in a way that is curiously life-affirming.