It was only a month or two ago that I finally forced myself into watching the John Wick films. A little late to the party, I know, but such is life.
In that time, I was glad to see what a lot of people were (re)discovering: that Keanu Reeves is one of the down right coolest dudes to grace cinema in many a decade. The first flick took it’s rather simple premise (retired hitman goes on rampage after losing the one thing that was left of a normal life, his dog) and elevated it in the second film, which I feel is the strongest of the four. The third one, though filled with interesting set pieces and action (including Casablanca of all places), started to dive a little too much into the ridiculous by the end. I know it is a movie, but when someone is shot twice off of a building and survives…well, now it is getting a little too silly.
That is how the third one ended, and how the newest chapter begins. John Wick (Reeves) has been in a recovery of sorts under the watch of Morpheus…I mean the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne). A new threat emerges from the table (I admit to still being confused about the whole logistics of it all) in Marquis (Bill Skarsgård), who has destroyed the hotel owned by Winston (Ian McShane) and friend Charon (the late Lance Reddick). Marquis is not afraid to pull out all the stops, including sending one of Wick’s old friends, Caine (Donnie Yen), to kill the titular character.
That is as far as I will go with the plot, because the film, while understandable, is clearly made for fans of action packed mayhem. The film has a hand full of action set pieces, and are unique in their own way (including one that starts the film that is a clear homage to Lawrence of Arabia) . Consider one in a Russian (?) night club where Wick (and others) are fighting against a man literally named Killa (Scott Adkins in a fat suit). It is a prime example of what makes the fight scenes of these films work besides the stunning fight choreography: the lighting of the scenes are rather sublime (though those extras are really going for it as they don’t seem to know/care about what is happening around them).
The most memorable for me is toward the end, when Wick is on his way to the inevitable final showdown, and is being constantly delayed by hitman. We get a long, over the top view of Wick in a building gunning down soul after soul (with a gun I can only describe as a combo of shotgun/flare gun) in a glorifying frenzy of pulp violence. It is really spectacular.
The problem, however, is akin to the one I had with the ending of the third film: It. just. Keeps. Going. By the end of the third film, it got too much on the cartoon side of things (for crying out loud, he survives getting shot and falling off a building?!?!). One of the scenes involves a shootout in a roundabout in France, and while seeing guys be hit by cars is one thing, it is another when you see it on repeat for nearly ten minutes.
Parents, don’t let your kids see this. There may be no sexual content, but the violence is so over the top it would be down right bad parenting to take anyone not mature enough to this film. The R rating is more than justified. It is a downright warning.
Even with the far too long runtime and nearly never ending acting, John Wick 4 still is satisfying to fans of the series, with all involved giving performances that are both fitting and enjoyable (it is always a plus for a film to have one of my personal favorite character actors, Clancy Brown.)
Then there is Donnie Yen, perhaps best known for the Ip Man films. My only qualm with his character is that he is blind. I don’t doubt that he would be someone able to still kick the crap out of people as a blind man (see Rogue One), but keeping him blind does seem to limit him to what we know the man can do (in his late 50s, for that matter.)
Perhaps even John Wick needs a handicap when facing Ip Man.