Three stars

Blame it on the beagle. In 2014, Keanu Reeves revitalised his post-Matrix career with John Wick, a blood-soaked action thriller about a grief-stricken hit man, who exacts eye-watering revenge for the butchery of his beloved hound Daisy.

Chad Stahelski’s relentlessly brutal film was a giddy delight and three years later, a testosterone-pumped sequel continued the breathless hand-to-hand combat and running gun battles.

Stahelski returns to the blood-smeared director’s chair for a third instalment, which dovetails neatly with the conclusion of John Wick: Chapter 2 and orchestrates a hyperkinetic battle royale on the rain-lashed streets of New York City.

The script, credited to four writers, adds several layers of intrigue but strips back characterisation to the splintered bone in order to focus on impeccably choreographed fight sequences, which reach a whoop-inducing crescendo with a showdown in an armoury museum.

Reeves and acrobatic extras deliver punishing blows to each other’s faces and torsos while furiously smashing display cases, grabbing guns, knives, axes and other implements to fling through the air with dizzying precision.

Fans of earlier instalments won’t be disappointed when it comes to high-octane destruction as Stahelski’s camera pirouettes around his leading man on horseback and a motorcycle, flanked in one exhausting exchange by two snarling attack dogs.

John (Reeves) has been excommunicated from the Continental Hotel in New York - a membership-only haven for the criminal underworld - by dapper owner Winston (Ian McShane) after he broke the rules and terminated crime lord Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) on the premises.

The High Table, the guild of assassins which imposes a strict moral code on the spilling of blood, authorises a 14 million US dollar contract on John’s life.

Carnage begins on the stroke of 6pm and John calls in a long-standing marker with a crime syndicate boss (Anjelica Huston) to secure safe passage to Morocco where he hopes to reunite with fellow assassin Sofia (Halle Berry), who now manages the Continental Hotel in Casablanca.

Meanwhile, The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), a menacing emissary of the High Table, visits Winston and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), who presides over the homeless in New York, to issue stern punishments for abetting John.

Both must resign their posts within seven days or expert swordsman Zero (Mark Dacascos) will meet their resistance with his blade.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is an adrenaline-pumping hoot that raises the franchise’s already high bar on balletic slaughter. Reeves rises to the physical demands of the role and Berry, Dillon and Huston inject long-overdue doses of steely femininity.

The 131-minute running time is excessive and there are worrying signs that John Wick might be aiming for the same ponderous narrative complexity as The Matrix but for now, Stahelski’s slam-bang thrill ride is a deeply satisfying rush of blood to the bludgeoned head.


Two stars

Canadian animated TV series PAW Patrol, a top dog for pre-schoolers on the Nick Jr channel, bounds excitedly onto the big screen in a super-powered instalment directed by Charles E Bastien.

Parents of little ones, who are frothing with excitement at the prospect of 70 action-packed minutes of canine misadventure, should be forewarned that the film is a compendium of three programmes including Top Wing and Butterbean’s Cafe. If your litter is only interested in PAW Patrol then you’ll be treated to approximately 45 minutes of well-groomed entertainment for your money, which hammers home valuable life lessons about perseverance and resilience in the face of failure. Every computer-animated dog has his or her day.

BREAKTHROUGH (12A, 116 mins)

Two stars

Adapted from the book The Impossible written by Joyce Smith and Ginger Kolbaba, Breakthrough is a faith drama directed by Roxann Dawson about a family which relies on religious faith to come to terms with a tragic accident. Brian Smith (Josh Lucas) and his wife Joyce (Chrissy Metz) adopt a 14-year-old Guatemalan boy called John (Marcel Ruiz), who was abandoned by his birth parents. The Smiths provide a loving and supportive foundation for the teenager to flourish but John is tormented by his past and he rebels against his parents and teachers at school, who want him to succeed. Ignoring the warning of a neighbour, John ventures onto a frozen lake with his pals Josh (Isaac Kragten) and Reiger (Nikolas Dukic). The boys fall through the ice and Josh and Reiger swim to safety. An emergency responder called Tommy Shine (Mike Colter) drags John’s lifeless body from the freezing water. The boy is placed in a medically induced coma under the care of Dr Garrett (Dennis Haysbert). The medic warns the Smiths that there is little chance of recovery and they should prepare to say goodbye to their son. However, local pastor Jason Noble (Topher Grace) encourages Joyce to place her faith in the Lord and to pray for John’s miraculous recovery.

BEATS (18)

Three stars

Adapted from Kieran Hurley’s stage play by the writer and director Brian Welsh, Beats is a nostalgic coming of age story set in 1994 against a backdrop of social and political unrest after the Conservative government introduces the Criminal Justice And Public Order Bill to crack down on raves. The legislation infuriates many young people including techno-loving 15-year-old Jonno (Cristian Ortega) and his best friend Spanner (Lorn Macdonald), who live in West Lothian.

While Jonno has a protective mother Alison (Laura Fraser) and police officer stepfather Robert (Brian Ferguson) looking out for him, poor Spanner only has his abusive older brother Fido (Neil Leiper) on his side.

The friendship will soon be torn apart when Alison and Robert move away from the area with Jonno. The lads decide to enjoy what time they have left by attending an underground rave with a group of local kids.

This act of defiance tests the bonds between Jonno and Spanner as they prepare to bid a tearful farewell to their childhoods.