Movie review: “John Wick: Chapter 4, a festival of fatality”

NEW YORK (OSV News) – Saul killed his thousands and Keanu Reeves his tens of thousands. Or at least it seems like the end of the nearly three-hour festival of doom that is “John Wick: Chapter 4” (Lionsgate).

Stylish savagery is the order of the day as Reeves resumes his role as the title hitman. Wick’s continued struggle to free himself from the High Table, the ultra-powerful behind-the-scenes criminal empire that once claimed his allegiance, becomes the cue for countless extras doomed to bite the dust. They turn out to be as actuarially weak as a Russian general in Ukraine.

However, a few Wick opponents have talking parts and thus manage to offer more durable opposition. One of them is Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), the noble French gentleman whom the rulers of the High Table have entrusted with the task of exterminating the seemingly indestructible Wick. He’s not the first to find this a tall order.

An unnamed bounty hunter (Shamier Anderson), acting independently, is also on Wick’s trail. He is accompanied by an attack dog who, on his orders, disembowels or castrates in various ways those who interfere with his master.

Wick receives endless help from his former Osaka-based ally, Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada). But two other old friends, blind assassin Caine (Donnie Yen) and disgraced High Table satrap Winston Scott (Ian McShane), find their loyalties clashing.

Adding to a series that debuted in 2014, franchise director Chad Stahelski directs a visually interesting but morally confusing thriller whose purposefully exaggerated chaos appeals viscerally to viewers while winking at them. The incidental treatment of religion in his film is also disagreeably ambiguous and at times barely circumvents the sacrilege.

So, at one point, an Orthodox priest in the middle of a church service suddenly pulls out a shotgun from under his clothes. Obviously, ruthless villains are shown at prayer and the widower Wick himself pauses long enough to light a candle for his dead wife – just in case, dialogue explains later, his disbelief in the au beyond that would turn out to be false.

Additionally, the gibberish associated with the high table includes Latin phrases diverted from Catholicism, and the film’s climactic confrontation takes place on the terrace of the Sacré-Coeur basilica in Paris. Stacked on top of a body count that could seriously dent census numbers, these details will steer savvy moviegoers away from this gory crowning achievement of an uneasy quartet.

The film contains excessive and nasty violence with a lot of gore, brief irreverent humor, at least a light oath, several coarse terms and considerable bad language. The OSV News classification is O – morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Children under 17 must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.

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