fri 19/07/2024

John Wick: Chapter 4 review - is this the El Cid of shoot-'em-up movies? | reviews, news & interviews

John Wick: Chapter 4 review - is this the El Cid of shoot-'em-up movies?

John Wick: Chapter 4 review - is this the El Cid of shoot-'em-up movies?

Keanu Reeves's Zen assassin scales new heights of awesomeness

Keanu Reeves rides again as John Wick

Since the first John Wick film from 2014 became an unexpected hit, the Wick franchise has blossomed into a booming business empire, also including comic books, video games and upcoming TV spin-offs. The title role has transformed Keanu Reeves, who remains guarded about his spiritual leanings, into the Zen master of action heroes.

At 58, Keanu may be getting a bit long in the tooth for these hyper-intense heroics, though he gently mocks himself by occasionally limping briefly after some especially taxing incident (falling off a tall building, for instance, or getting run over by a charging SUV) before picking himself up and hurling himself back into the fray. From humble beginnings as a hitman revenge movie with a bit of a sentimental streak, the John Wick universe has acquired its own arcane mythology which seems to draw from Oriental philosophy, secretive martial arts practices, ancient ethnic codes and assorted underworld and masonic rituals.

It gets a bit confusing, but suffice to say that, in Chapter 4, Wick is yet again facing the unforgiving might of the High Table (an omnipotent council of 12 crime lords). The Table’s new chief persecutor is the smarmy and sadistic Marquis (Bill Skarsgård, from the seemingly infinite Swedish acting dynasty, pictured right), for whom no blow is too low and who is determined to eradicate the defiant Wick once and for all. Meanwhile, the sly and slippery hotelier Winston (Ian McShane) is playing both sides against the middle as he schemes to get himself reinstated as manager of New York’s Continental Hotel, that most discreet refuge of the world’s leading killers. Sadly, we don’t see enough of the recently-deceased Lance Reddick as Charon, Winston’s imperturbable concierge.

But really, it all boils down to Wick massacring waves of hostile assassins in a series of sumptuous locations. Director Chad Stahelski (who has directed all the Wicks) now oversees the action like an opera conductor, and with a running time of almost three hours he’s given himself the scope to create battle sequences so vast and intricate that they’re virtually a new art form. Wick has always had a habit of shooting his antagonists in the head, but now the opposition is so sophisticated, and so tooled-up with body armour, he has to kill each one three times over. During a titanic clash at the Continental Hotel in Osaka, Wick’s old (and possibly last) friend Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada) suggests to him that “not even you can kill everyone,” but in fact he can. The battle at the Osaka hotel is a heady mashup of gang warfare and Samurai culture, adorned with rice paper paintings, cherry blossom and a museum of antique Japanese weapons, with some jujitsu moves in among the mayhem. Homage is duly paid to the ancient warrior code.

Leaving aside a delightfully impudent visual pun on David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia at the start, it’s Paris that is the jewel in Chapter 4’s crown. This is where the Marquis (modelling a range of sleek bespoke suits) is headquartered in Versailles-like luxury, and the action roves between interiors of the Palais Garnier opera house and the Louvre to grand set-pieces at the Trocadero – with the Eiffel Tower looming in the mist in the distance (pictured above) – and Montmartre’s Sacré-Cœur. But for sheer cheek, the pitched battle by the Arc de Triomphe takes some beating. As Francophile tourists will know, taking a drive round the Arc feels a bit like being thrown into a giant waste disposal machine, and here Wick is at the centre of a frantic guns-and-cars chase going in the opposite direction to all the other traffic. Preposterous, but you gotta love it.

A denouement by the Sacré-Cœur somehow mixes episodes of laugh-out-loud absurdity with some piercing stabs of real poignancy, harking back to the beginning of the Wick saga in the aftermath of his wife’s death. It all began with the killing of a beagle puppy, and great care has been taken to emphasise Wick’s role as still-grieving husband and stalwart defender of canines. Chapter 4 is a bit of an epic, the El Cid of shoot-’em-up movies.

It all boils down to Wick massacring waves of hostile assassins in a series of sumptuous locations

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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