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Tuesday 4 April 2023

Burl reviews John Wick: Chapter 4! (2023)


Ha ha and bang bang bang, it’s Burl, here to recount a tale of gunfire and mayhem! Yes, it’s the latest in the increasingly long line of action fables featuring the bearded Keanu Reeves, whom we recall so well from Bill & Ted Face the Music and other associated productions! It’s the John Wick pictures I’m talking about, of which I’ve seen all, but have only reviewed, I believe, John Wick: Chapter 2! This one is called John Wick: Chapter 4, which I figure they chose as a title because, ha ha, it’s the fourth chapter in the series!

Of course these crime pictures are set in a crazy copless world which seems essentially run by a big gangster conglomerate known as the High Table! Ha ha, the movies are so dedicated to this world that they often seem ridiculous, but at the same time the fealty to this criminal fantasyland is so complete as to be kind of admirable at the same time! And my belief – the belief that allows me to fully enjoy these movies, ha ha – is that the filmmakers know about and encourage that ridiculousness, while still endeavouring to make worthwhile action pictures!

I won’t bother relating the plot, as it’s both a continuation and repetition of what’s come before, to wit: John Wick, super-assassin widower and former dog owner, is trying to not be killed by the people who are after him, which is nearly everybody, and endeavouring to get out of this crime-world! (Is there an “out?” Ha ha, if so we never see it!) To accomplish this he must shoot and punchfight all sorts of people in order to satisfy the arcane rules of the people who run things! This time, for John, it ultimately means dueling a fop, but there are plenty of fights to have before that in this nearly three-hour tour!

Characters from previous Wick adventures are here, notably Wick’s pal Winston, played by Ian McShane from Too Scared To Scream, who here loses his beloved concierge and his hotel too! Laurence Fishburne from Fast Break and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 returns as the King of Lower Bumtown, but here his main activity seems to be providing Wick with bulletproof suits, guns, and the occasional boat ride! The new character everyone loves is a blind master called Caine, played by the Ip Man himself, Donnie Yen, known to Western audiences from movies like Rogue One! He’s an appealingly human and ambiguous presence, and his fighting is most impressive!

Other fresh faces include Clancy Brown from Buckaroo Banzai and Extreme Prejudice, who strides through the proceedings wearing a black hat and a big beard, his task evidently to see that the rules of the High Table are strictly followed! There’s a fellow with a dog and a gun but without a name, who will occasionally aim his rifle at John Wick but usually ends up shooting someone else! And then there’s Scott Adkins, who’s been actioning it up in all sorts of movies for some twenty years now, and who here wears balloon makeup and golden teeth in the role of a monstrous card sharp!

There are some fine action scenes, in particular the one up the stairs to Sacré Coeur! The roundelay at the Arc de Triomphe gets a lot of love, and I certainly enjoyed it, but there was a greenscreen weightlessness to it at times – it was all those bodies flying around after being hit by passing Citroëns, I suppose! And I quite enjoyed the long overhead scene in which John Wick blasts people with a shotgun that sets them on fire, ha ha! The last contest with the foppy clothes-horse Marquis, who stands as the picture’s principal villain, is okay, but maybe wasn’t quite the satisfaction I was looking for; but the last-act tribute to The Warriors was a mighty big help, boppers!

In sum, there’s plenty to enjoy here for the action enthusiast, and even the Ridiculous Action enthusiast! There’s a rake-gag aspect to some of this: you’ll lose count of how many times John Wick gets hit by a car, or falls down the stairs, or plummets a distance that would cripple a normal man! There’s a more general repetitiveness of tone as well as event through much of the picture: many times, for example, Wick will meet up with someone with whom he used to be friends, and they’ll refer to this bosom chumship in sober and reverent terms, but every time this happens it leaves you wondering just exactly what sort of friendships these were! Ha ha, did these guys go out for beers or socialize in any recognizable manner, or did they just run across each other in the course of their killing sprees and develop their friendships as a sort of parallel play between gunshots? It’s a conundrum, and it’s perplexities like this which keep you from fully engaging with the movies on a human level – ha ha, that’s is why Donnie Yen is such a breath of fresh air in this hermetic and cloistered environment! But you know, I took my son to see it and we had a fine old time at the picture house, and so I give John Wick: Chapter 4 three doorless cars!


  1. I was so into this! Clearly, John Wick must be the best action series in terms of average rating, or maybe any other.

    Don't forget about Marko "the Latin Dragon" Zaror. The four films he did in Chile with Ernesto Diaz Espinoza are top notch, and curious in that they get progressively better throughout the series. You don't see a lot of it in JWIV, just his slide down the stairs and reaction to having his t*sticl*s chewed off by a dog, but Zaror is the funniest action hero since Schwarzenegger IMO! I think he's been based out of the US for a decade or so, but he and Espinoza reportedly have another one coming out this year!

    1. Thanks for this information! Sounds like a fellow I'll have to look into!

  2. OK, I bet ol' Burl will appreciate this: check out two trailers for "Mandrill," the third Zaror/Espinoza joint, a Bond parodyish deal. One is from the Los Angeles Latino film festival account and is, I believe, the original Chilean trailer. The second is from its American release. The former is truer to the movie, but they're both things I'd love.

    1. I'm going to have a look at those trailers and report back! I didn't realize he was a standalone action hero, and I look forward to tracking down some of his work!