The Movie Waffler New to VOD - JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 | The Movie Waffler


John Wick attempts to end the bounty on his head.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Chad Stahelski

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Lance Reddick, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, Ian McShane

John Wick: Chapter 4 poster

I can't think of a worse way to spend my time than watching someone else play a video game. Even as a kid I would slink off into the corner of a friend's bedroom and read a magazine while they took their turn on a single player game on the Commodore 64. Yet today there are people who don't watch movies but happily watch strangers streaming themselves playing video games online, and some of them even pay for the privilege. If you're the sort of person who enjoys watching other people play video games, John Wick: Chapter 4 is the movie for you.

John Wick: Chapter 4 review

The movie acknowledges its video game influence at several points, with a bird's eye view sequence that recalls the top-down shoot 'em-ups of the 1980s. There's a set-piece that turns a busy Parisian thoroughfare into a big game of Frogger. The moments between the action play like video game cut scenes, only with worse dialogue. I'm guessing the people who make a living getting paid to be watched by strangers as they play video games fall into one of two categories: they're either very attractive or very charismatic. If it's the latter you might understand why someone might want to root for them as they play a video game (I don't understand, but you might). In John Wick: Chapter 4 the titular gunfighter is so devoid of personality at this point that it's like watching a video game play itself. Reeves is given minimal dialogue here, which only serves to expose how wooden an actor he is. He kills so many people that it's impossible to care about him at this point, and the movie is so long that you'll find yourself willing the faceless goons to finally learn to shoot straight in order to put Wick and the rest of us out of our misery.

The second and third instalments of the franchise took the premise of 3:10 to Yuma and The Warriors (two movies you could watch in the same time it takes to watch John Wick: Chapter 4) and stretched it out to the point where it became translucent. The fourth chapter sees Wick still on the run, with the bounty on his head constantly being upped because none of the faceless goons he encounters can shoot straight. There's an on-the-nose "homage" to The Warriors that would have been the point where I walked out were I not planning to write a review. To paraphrase Will Smith, keep Walter Hill's name out of your mouth.

John Wick: Chapter 4 review

The faceless goons are working under the big bad, Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård butchering a French accent). A few goons are a little more than faceless. They're played by Donnie Yen, Shamier Anderson and Scott Adkins, three performers whose charisma doesn't do the leading man any favours by comparison. As is always the case when Asian martial artists appear in Hollywood movies, Yen's talents are barely exploited here. He plays a Zatoichi-esque blind swordsman, and you can't help but think he was given this disadvantage to make Keanu look a little more convincing (Watching Yen and Reeves perform side by side is like that scene in Xanadu where Gene Kelly dances with Olivia Newton-John). Anderson has popped up in a few supporting roles recently and has stolen the show with a laid back, very Canadian likeability. Adkins is probably the most talented action star in the western world, but he's lumbered here with a ridiculous fat-suit (a bizarre piece of broad comedy in an otherwise sombre movie). This gives us one great moment when Adkins performs his trademark spinning kick while looking like Sydney Greenstreet, but it denies him the ability to let loose in the manner of his many straight to VOD action fests. Once again it seems like a talented athletic performer has been purposely hindered to make Keanu look better.

Watching Wick constantly shoot his opponents in the head is both mind-numbing and a little depressing, and some of the set-pieces play like the disturbed fantasy of a budding school shooter. Having recently watched Paris Memories, a movie about a French woman trying to come to terms with surviving the November 2015 Paris attacks, watching Wick gun down dozens of people in the streets of the French capital didn't play like escapism, but rather a grim reminder of reality. This series began with a man seeking revenge, but at this point Wick has practically become the villain of his own story. The series is almost an unintentional commentary on America's 21st century foreign policy.

John Wick: Chapter 4 review

The best chapter of the series is the second one, the one with a sense of humour. Since then the series has become as solemn as a Soviet era drama about living under Nazi occupation. The only laughs here come courtesy of some neat line delivery by Yen and Anderson; otherwise it's a grim spectacle, and not much of a spectacle at that. The second chapter was one of the best looking movies to come out of Hollywood in recent years, drawing influence from Italian cinema and resembling a boutique men's magazine come to life. The last two chapters have opted for a sickly teal and amber aesthetic, and this one overloads the frame at times with so much garishness that it's headache inducing.

The ending appears to close the book on this series, but no doubt more instalments will follow. I don't think I can take anymore myself though. Yeah, I'm thinking I'm done with John Wick.

John Wick: Chapter 4 is on UK/ROI VOD now.

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