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Film reviews: John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum

Horse play: Keanu and his equine chum take on bikers in the midst of Manhattan

THE BIG RELEASE

John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum

(15) ★★★★✩

FEAR not if you’re late to the John Wick party — it’s blissfully easy to catch up on the story so far. John Wick (Keanu Reeves in a beard) is a legendary assassin in retirement — until his ex-boss’s idiot son kills Wick’s dog. In revenge, Wick kills everyone else — and then some.

Kicking off barely seconds after the close of the previous instalment, Chapter 3 continues to see Reeves single-handedly dispatch every henchman casting agents can throw at him. The set-up finds Wick with a $14 million bounty on his head. He’s about to be ‘excommunicated’ from both the High Table — the organisation that enforces order on the underworld — and The Contintental, a luxury hotel for criminals that previously offered him sanctuary. Where can he possibly run to?

Stylishly directed by Chad Stahelski, Reeves’ former stunt double on The Matrix, the John Wick movies stand apart due to their bone-crunchingly ‘real’ punch-ups and breath-stopping choreography. Indeed, the ingenious action set pieces are so relentless that the entire franchise is essentially one long, brilliantly sustained fight scene. As such, the plot is structured more like that of a video game, where Wick works his way up through various ‘big boss’ levels.

But where is it all going, exactly? That’s what you start to wonder most, if you have time to wonder at all, during Chapter 3, which feels like a bridging instalment to another level of revelation. At least you hope so. Though still ludicrously entertaining, this story needs to pull something new out of the bag if it’s going to maintain its legs.

Still, there are plenty of diversions here. New ‘bosses’ include Anjelica Huston’s sadistic ballet mistress and Halle Berry’s sexy single mother as well as older faithfuls Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne. There’s a bit of backstory divulged and Reeves remains perfect casting as the grave, monosyllabic Wick, who he imbues with a haunted vulnerability. The whoop-worthy moment where the 54-year-old Reeves gallops a horse through a motorcycle chase in night-time Manhattan all but says ‘eat that, Tom Cruise!’

THE VERDICT

More deliriously stylish ultra-violence, this whacks the entertainment dial up to 11

Birds Of Passage

(15) ★★★★✩

Comparisons to Scarface, The Sopranos, Narcos and The Godfather are inevitable, yet epic crime saga Birds Of Passage possesses its own powerful vision, as you’d expect from the Oscar-nominated creators of the indefinable Embrace Of The Serpent.

Inspired by true events, Birds Of Passage charts the rise of the Colombian drugs trade through the eyes of the indigenous Wayúu people. When greedy young gun Rapayet (José Acosta) enters the drug-trafficking business in the 1970s he finds himself clashing with the tribe’s matriarch (Carmiña Martínez) as he wilfully ignores the ancient omens. Mesmerically shot by cinematographer David Gallego (I Am Not A Witch), this sprawling, surrealist-tinged moral fable explores the erosion of community values in the pursuit of a fast, dirty buck. The result is a stunner of a movie, well worth immersing yourself in on the big screen.

My Days Of Mercy

(15) ★★★✩✩

Those who contest there are no new stories under the sun clearly haven’t watched this lesbian romance. Closet cases Lucy (Ellen Page) and Mercy (Kate Mara) get their meet-cute at a prison death row protest. A man is about to be executed. Mercy is pro: the man killed her father’s old friend, a cop of 16 years’ standing. Lucy is anti: her own dad faces execution for stabbing her mother, even though Lucy and her older sister (Amy Seimetz) insist he’s innocent.

It’s an unlikely set-up for an intimate tale of sexual awakening. But if the whole death row element — complete with ticking countdown to lethal injection — never quite fits with the budding star-crossed love story, this indie still keeps you hooked thanks to its leads’ chemistry.

Co-producers as well as co-stars, Page and Mara are also real-life BFFs and their every shared look lights up the screen. There’s no stinting on the graphic sex scenes, either. Contrived yet interesting and undeniably erotic, it’s a queer story in both senses.