Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – John Wick Chapter 4

My notes on John Wick Chapter 4

When the 1256th not-particularly-superskilled assassin – enthused by the rising price on John Wick’s head – rushes at the hero with homicidal intent, does it even cross their mind that the previous 1255 midlist murderers did exactly the same thing and died within seconds?  Of course not.  Any notion of realism departed from this series a long time ago, and what we have is the Fast and Furious of hit man fu pictures – essentially so fantastical that the Wicks make the Taken franchise look like kitchen sink drama.  John Wick Chapter 4 is the longest of the films to date, and the most thinly plotted – but like those mid-series F&F episodes it eventually bludgeons you into appreciation of the audacity and indeed the second half is a sustained succession of top-of-the-line stunt/action/chase/fight scenes.  The effect is rather like binge-watching all of Chuck Jones Road Runner/Coyote cartoons – it’s just one joke told over and over, with variations, but eventually it becomes funny again and just when yoou think it can’t get any crazier, it ramps up three or four more times.

Without much of a story so far, Wick (Keanu Reeves) is still at odds with the High Table – a secret society of assassins everyone in this cop/civilian-free universe knows about – and wants to retire to peaceful contemplation, which sadly he won’t be able to until he’s killed a number of people roughly equivalent to the population of a state capital city.  He has a few old friend series regulars (Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Hiroyuki Sanada) but the group gets smaller swiftly to add to the urgency of getting revenge on the nastiest of the nasties.  This instalment’s big bad is a sneery French aristo (with a great line in snappy waistcoats) called the Marquis (Bill Skarsgard) who accepts Wick’s challenge to a duel but puts a small army between the hero and the agreed site of the pistols-at-thirty-paces event in the hope someone’ll hold him up past dawn so he’ll forfeit the duel and his life.  You can probably see where this is going, but theres’ pleasure to be had from some pointed playing from the guest star likes of Clancy Brown before we get there, and this instalment’s guest action supremo is Donnie Yen as Caine, a blind hit man in the Zatoichi mode, while Rina Sawayama does gut-skewereing geisha duties.  Shamier Anderson is on the sidelines, waiting for the bounty on Wick to get high enough to be worth the effort – but he has a dog, so you can tell he’ll turn out to be all right.

There’s early desert action and a slightly rote Osaka battle – which does reprise business from earlier chapters – but once the players get to Paris, things go into overdrive with three sequences which would serve as climaxes for lesser pictures before we even get to the duel … a punch-up/car battle in high-speed traffic around the Arc de Triomphe at night (if trained killers can’t do for John Wick, maybe regular French drivers can) … an overhead shot of Wick blasting his way through walls and floors in a derelict mansion, wielding a shotgun which fires explosive/incendiary shells … and a self-contained fight-all-the-way-up-the-steps-to-Sacre-Coeur sequence which may well match Laurel and Hardy and the piano in The Music Box for a exhilarating, hilarious, excruciating semi-Sisyphean struggle (or maybe Reeves want to beat the record set in The King of Kong?).

Reeves has even fewer dialogue or character scenes here than in the earlier movies – which just means he has to be in action constantly.  John Wick always has the look of someone who needs a nice long rest but isn’t going to get one.  My guess is that he’ll be back to take more beatings and kill many more killers before long.  Scripted by Shay Hatten (the Army of the Dead films) and Michael Finch (Predators); still directed by Chad Stahelski – this might be a rare instance where the second unit does the few talking scenes while the credited director handles the crash, smash and bash material.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: