By Richard Roeper

Chicago Sun-Times

“John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum”

131 minutes

Rating: R for pervasive strong violence, and some language

Not to minimize the stylish, creative, imaginative directing flair by Chad Stahelski and the classic deadpan performance by Keanu Reeves in the title role, but when that idiot thug murdered grieving widower John Wick’s pup in the first film back in 2014, THAT’s what provided John with a raison d’etre, and that’s what placed us firmly in John’s corner, actively rooting for him to exact his revenge.

In “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum,” the story of the executed beagle pup has become part of John’s legend and is referenced more than once.

As we saw at the end of “John Wick 2,” our antihero now has a new canine companion (an adorable and loyal rescue pit bull), but the dogs that really have their day in “Chapter 3” are the Malinois sidekicks to Halle Berry’s Sofia.

The third installment of the ultraviolent, operatic, blood-soaked and wonderfully askew “John Wick” franchise is the most outlandish, the most ambitious and maybe the most entertaining chapter to date.

This is basically a series of impressively staged, increasingly elaborate, over-the-top, wink-at-the-audience fight sequences — interspersed with ludicrous, B-movie exposition scenes in which the A-list cast members manage to keep straight faces.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re new to the game. In “John Wick 2,” our man violated the rules of the Continental Hotel in New York City, which is kind of like a Soho House for assassins — a classy, upscale safe haven.

Membership revoked! John has been declared “Ex Communicado,” meaning he has lost all privileges and protections within the secret, international society of assassins. There’s a $14 million bounty on his head and any member who offers John assistance is subject to instant and injurious retribution.

Let the globe-trotting and the blood-spilling begin.

This is one of the most visually arresting films of the year, from the shifting color palettes to the ingenious use of mirrors and reflective glass, to the mournful and beautiful and nearly constant rainfall straight out of “Blade Runner.”

And what a supporting cast!

Anjelica Huston is magisterial as The Director, a ballet instructor (among other things) who lends a hand to John even as she asks, “All of this for what, a puppy?” (His reply is priceless.)

Reeves’ old “Matrix” running mate Laurence Fishburne is back as the Bowery King, who also realizes he’ll be facing dire consequences for helping his old friend. Ian McShane and Lance Reddick return as the keepers of the Continental Hotel castle.

The ever-stunning Halle Berry kills it as Sofia, who runs the Casablanca branch of the Continental, owes John a debt of gratitude and is the owner of the aforementioned Malinois, who will do anything for her.

Mark Dacascos turns in scene-stealing work as Zero, who is a sushi chef, the leader of a ninja army and Wick’s most formidable foe (GOOD résumé), but also one of his biggest fans. (“Pretty good fight!” exclaims Zero as he and John are slumped side by side, battered and bruised and broken.)

This is the kind of escapist movie that encourages us to groan and cringe and laugh at the mayhem. It’s a hard-R live-action cartoon, and it is superb, wall-to-wall action entertainment.

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