Here’s looking at you, Wick. Part grisly Casablanca, part bloody Blade Runner and part macabre Matrix, the elements combine to make John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum epic choreographed mayhem and the best action film of the year. Endgame schmendgame.

Directed by Keanu Reeves’ Matrix stunt double-turned-action auteur Chad Stahelski, Parabellum mixes terrific CGI with even more impressive stunt work to become that rarity in an action genre: a live-action cartoon that doesn’t look cartoonish. Yes, the violence is over-the-top and Parabellum is by far the most brutal film of the sleeper franchise. But as body counts go, this is bloodshed as high art.

The opening of Parabellum picks up just minutes after the end of its 2017 predecessor, with Keanu Reeves’ wronged, out-of-retirement super-assassin on the run through nighttime Manhattan. Wick, as you may recall from part 2, committed the cardinal sin of killing a male member of the shadowy assassins’ guild known as The High Table. Now, he’s been declared “ex-communicado”, which in layman terms means that it’s open season on Wick, who has a $14 million bounty on his head.

Out of loyalty, colleague Ian McShane’s gave Wick a one-hour head start to get out of Dodge before word attracts the enumerable professional hit men (and women) who come after him for the reward. As played by Reeves (who, at 54, can still remarkably dish out and take a nasty beating), Wick is the ultimate tragic loner – haunted and hunted. The role fits the soulfully unknowable star like the custom, slim black suit he wears on the job.

The first brawl in John Wick 3 sets an ultraviolent tone that never relents as Wick does with a library book what he famously did with a pencil in the first film, and it just gets nastier from there. What makes that brawl — and the dozens subsequently – so effective isn’t just the lightning-quick fighting or the cameo appearances of Asian cinema martial-arts heavies that are easter eggs for the action savants;  it’s the way the audience feels each blow in the fights. As in The Raid films, the punches are insanely inventive, but they also hurt. And they also sound especially crunchy. Whoever was John Wick 3’s Foley Artist deserves a raise.

It also doesn’t hurt that cinematographer Dan Laustsen creates a world that would make Ridley Scott envious. From the sands of Casablanca to the rain-slicked streets of Manhattan, the worlds of Wick never lack for flair or twists. There’s a horse raise in Wick 3 — on city streets instead of Moroccan sand — and it looks somehow natural in the Wickian universe.

One of the new characters introduced in John Wick 3 is Asia Kate Dillon’s “Adjudicator,” who spells out the fine print rules of the High Table. It’s a nice countermeasure to the chaotic violence that immerses us for nearly 2 1/2 hours.

As a man without a country in John Wick 3, Reeves’ bruised and battered hero is forced to call in the only two favors he has left to his credit. The first is with an underworld Russian mother figure who’s played by Anjelica Huston and who helps him flee to Casablanca. The second is with an equally badass assassin played by Halle Berry (whose pair of attack dogs steal the middle-third of the movie). Neither one steals Wick’s thunder, but they do add some emotional weight to the film.

If Wick 3 has any weaknesses, it’s that the fights can feel a little long and so quickly edited you can miss the nifty, fatal moves. And while Parabellum clearly sees itself as a franchise film, it sets up another sequel a little too blatantly.

Still, with his dog and muscle car already avenged in the first two movies, John Wick 3 really leaves viewers with one question, one never answered in the movie: Who or what is a ‘Parabellum?’ For the non-scholars of dead languages, an internet search reveals that it comes from the Latin phrase: Si vis pacem, parabellum. Which translates as, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” And no one prepares for war like John Wick does.