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John Wick 3: Parabellum trailer: Keanu is back

Keanu rides a horse through the streets of New York. Cool.

Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

John Wick is back and more stylish than ever. The cameo-studded first trailer for John Wick 3: Parabellum — the third film in the Keanu Reeves-led film franchise — looks stunning, dripping with gorgeous sets and cityscapes, gorgeous people, and gorgeous action sequences.

John Wick (2014) gave its tortured main character a sweet, fantasy-fueled pass to New York’s most glamorous, seedy underbelly — a kind of James Bond-esque glamour that both the film and its 2017 sequel made sumptuous use of, all while putting its unkillable, unstoppable antihero through the ringer as he battled various villains and eked out various acts of revenge. The trailer for the third film finds Keanu riding a horse while being chased by a biker gang wielding swords, because why not? Oh, despite the notorious fate of his first puppy, the friendly pit bull he picked up in the final scene of John Wick is still alive and well in Parabellum. The fact that he’s seen with other dogs in the new trailer had briefly alarmed some viewers as to the fate of his second pet, but it’s possible he’s just a dog-friendly guy.

One thing that’s made the John Wick franchise so good is that it’s always worn its Asian vengeance cinema roots on its sleeve. The new trailer makes that connection even clearer, with lots of scenes looking as though they flew straight from the mind of Park Chan-wook circa his Oldboy years.

The connection to Asian cinema is also strengthened in part due to some obvious and not-so-obvious callbacks to The Matrix. The clearest link, apart from the franchises’ shared neo-noir trappings, is that Parabellum continues John Wick’s reunion between Keanu Reeves and his Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne — here playing the inscrutable king of the Bowery in the shadowy world of New York’s underground titans. But there’s another, even more direct connection: Parabellum’s director, Chad Stahelski, who made his debut with John Wick, was Reeves’ Matrix stunt double.

Stahelski’s long career in stunt work, and his long association with Reeves, clearly molded the John Wick franchise into something that felt both familiar and refreshingly original, allowing it to amass its cult following simply by ruling so hard that it took audiences by surprise.

The first film’s sleeper success in 2014 revitalized Reeves’s career — which is saying something given that he was already one of the most bankable stars of the modern era. It’s also spawned a litany of memes and the perpetual joke that you should never, ever kill John Wick’s dog.

The new film promises more of what you showed up for in films one and two — Keanu Reeves, looking tired and gritty but immaculately attired as he singlehandedly mows down rows of unfortunate bad guys with, like, two fingers and a tiny gun. (He does acquire a very big gun at the end of the Parabellum trailer, which leads us to wonder what on Earth he’ll be taking down in the film. John Wick has never needed a really big gun to wreak havoc on lower Manhattan, so we can only assume he’s facing off against something akin to the Cloverfield monster.)

The film is also bursting with star power, from Halle Berry showing up as Wick’s unimpressed ally, to Deadwood’s Ian McShane reprising his role as Wick’s reluctant nemesis Winston, to Anjelica Houston, credited only as “The Director.”

What’s she directing? We don’t know, but we’re 100 percent certain it’s badass.

John Wick opens in theaters May 17.

Correction: This article originally stated that John Wick’s dog was new. In fact, though he’s seen with other new dogs in the trailer, the dog he got at the end of the first film is still alive and well, and from all appearances, a very good boy.