Cert 15 130min Stars 4
Keanu Reeves burns the candle at both ends and in the middle in as he returns as the titular hitman this blistering all-action thriller.
Fast, ferocious and surprisingly funny, we join the much feared dog-loving assassin exactly where the previous film left him, alone in New York with a $14m bounty on his head and every hitman in the Big Apple gunning for him.
Almost immediately he’s busting out his brutal bone-breaking and head-cracking action moves. Where once he killed a man with only a pencil, here he uses a library book as a lethal weapon in his bid to survive, as well as an assortment of more traditional weapons, such as knives, pistols and automatic rifles.
Among the tremendously and energetically staged ultra-violent fights which had me wincing with their savagery, one in a stable full of horses and another utilises motorbikes.
Ian McShane is back as the nonchalant manager of New York’s most sumptuous hotel, The Continental, while franchise newcomer Anjelica Huston is majestic as a powerful Belarusian matriarch.
An angry Halle Berry is far more interesting and kick-ass here than she ever was as a sidekick to Pierce Brosnan’s 007 in 2002’s Die Another Day. And her pair of trained attack dogs deserving of their own spin-off adventure.
A sojourn to Casablanca adds epic sweep, and there are nods to Clint Eastwood in his Spaghetti Westerns, and with every frame capturing the tactile weight of the luxuriously decadent interiors, this is easily the most handsome action franchise.
Unfortunately the running time is as much a hindrance as the clumsy title, and takes the sting out of the climactic battle, which is overlong and less inventive and impressive than those preceding it.
Parabellum comes from a latin phrase meaning ‘prepare for war’. Well, you can’t say this bloody and frequently brilliant episode doesn’t warn you of what to expect.