‘John Wick’ and the Tragedy of the Aimless Assassin

John Wick was never really a talkative guy. The character is a long monologue in the first Wick The movie is more shocking than his ability to mow down dozens of gangsters while armed only with a pistol and his wits. With its upcoming release John Wick: Chapter 4Keanu Reeves has spent nine years playing the nearly mute bogeyman di tutti bogeymen, the scariest assassin in a world full of ruthless hired killers hunting each other for the next big bounty. But after watching the latest installment in the series, in theaters next week, I’m starting to worry that Mr. Wick is losing his passion for so much stoic hyperviolence.

In his first scene at Chapter 4, Wick savagely pounds a padded wooden post, setting himself up for two hours and 49 minutes of bone-crunching, blood-spewing action. But when asked if he’s ready to make his latest comeback, Wick seems to muster all his strength to growl out a one-word answer: “Yes.” Four films deep, he remains a grumpy golem out for blood, bursting into glittering villain lairs and dispatching hundreds of goons in inimitable style. Less and less clear, however, is Why thrown into all this chaos. The first Wick The film is a sharp revenge story: The sadistic killer comes out of retirement to take down the mobsters who killed his puppy. His maximalism Chapter 4, on the other hand, can only partially distract from the fact that Wick’s current mission feels a little lost. now his greatest enemy seems to be his own fatigue.

The Wick The universe is labyrinthine, with a “High Table” of assassins with more subcommittees and regulations than a New York co-op board. Extensive world building has always been part of the fun of the series. almost every character is at least a part-time hit man, paying for plush stays in secret caves with gold coins and arming himself with a plethora of fancy guns and bulletproof jackets for dinner.

An important part of it Wickiverse is Continental, a five-star hotel chain. the New York branch is run by the honeyed Winston (played by Ian McShane). In Continental, violence is sacrilege. In fact, the reason for everything Chapter 4‘s brouhaha traces back to Chapter 2, when Wick hastily dismissed an irritating Italian gangster on the hotel grounds in violation of sacred rules. Then, as mentioned in chapter 3, began to hunt the legislators behind the Byzantine system. As a result, from Chapter 4, nearly everyone has turned on Wick and the bounty on his head has skyrocketed into eight-figure territory. His closest remaining allies are a big bum named the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and Winston, who continues to help Wick despite having previously been punished for it.

Even I, a devotee of this series, find it hard to keep up. Wick is fighting for his life but also for some formless revenge on the faceless administrators who want to wipe him out just because he broke a rule two movies ago. This is the first one Wick it wasn’t written by Derek Kolstad, and the current writers, Shay Hatten and Michael Finch, certainly have a looser grasp on the reins of this strange narrative. But the director, Chad Stahelski, has been with the series since its inception and is clearly working with his biggest budget to date, so he makes up for any story weaknesses by serving up a seven-course meal of set pieces.

Surprisingly, overall, Chapter 4 it actually succeeds. Yes, I checked my watch a few times during the movie and may have cut through some of the more dangerous discussions about fate and free will that took place between a bunch of blade-wielding bureaucrats. But until the last hour of its elephantine running time, Chapter 4 it’s an absurdist blast—especially when the action moves to Paris and sees Wick battling homicidal drivers at the Arc de Triomphe before attempting to climb the heavy staircase to the Sacré-Cœur basilica while thugs pounce on him like deadly lemmings. At that point, I didn’t care what his motives were. I was just cheering him on to the top.

The film also puts him in Osaka, where another branch of Continental is run by his old friend Shimazu Koji (a wonderfully stern Hiroyuki Sanada), and in Berlin, where he faces a giant boss played by martial arts legend Scott Adkins. , who seems to relish the challenge of high-kicking in a padded suit and heavy makeup. Through his travels, Wick is pursued by a blind assassin named Kane (Hong Kong star Donnie Yen) and a charming newcomer who bills himself as “Mr. None” (Shamier Anderson); Both are reluctant allies of the dastardly Marquis (Bill Skarsgård), a moron who clearly graduated from the University of Evil Villains.

I could explain Wick lesson all day and night, and it still wouldn’t make sense. The universal language of these films is action, crisply choreographed and based on realistic punches, kicks, jumps and falls, combined with unusual, laser-accurate weapons. Wick can somehow shoot a distant enemy between the eyes without even looking. he can also do it while engaging in a samurai battle with four other people and riding on the roof of a muscle car that falls through a skyscraper window. (Note: The latter scenario has not yet occurred in a Wick film. But it seems plausible.)

Chapter 4 has plenty of death-defying moments along those lines, but they’re weighed down by Wick’s growing ineptitude—even some of his allies are starting to admit they don’t really understand what his end game is. Unlike the previous films, the film chooses an ending that at least hints at the possibility of an authentic finality. But I’m not convinced this series will ever end. As long as the franchise continues to make money, Reeves will continue to pull out a Glock and take on other legends of the genre, running around the world or as far as his legs can take him.

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