Keanu at the end of his Wick

John Wick: Chapter 4 (15, 169 mins)

“Second chances are the refuge of men who fail.”

That’s just one of the pearls of wisdom that litter the latest, and probably final outing for Keanu Reeves’s Kevlar suited and booted assassin.

Other examples that belong on one of those irritating random Facebook pages: “A man’s ambition should never become greater than his worth” and “A man should look his best when getting married… or buried,” form a thread that, deliberately or not, runs through the entire film.

But even silly soundbites become tolerable when surrounded by the choreographed mayhem that has raised the bar for set pieces over the past nine years.

That near decade on film becomes only weeks from Chapter 1 to 4. And if this is indeed the final part they are certainly going out on a high.

Working on the assumption that no one is going to jump into the world of Wick for the first time at this point, director Chad Stahelski has dispensed with any exposition and good thing too as we would have been well north of three hours running time if he had.

What we do get, however, is some added depth with a revelation from John’s distant past.

Still excommunicado from the mysterious High Table, the power behind the world’s hitmen and the chain of safe haven Hotel Continentals, and with the price on his head climbing quicker than the body count left in his wake, John Wick needs to find a way to earn his freedom.

But the newly appointed Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) sees the legendary hitman as the prize to seal his own position. So anyone who assists Wick are themselves targeted, including New York Continental manager Winston (Ian McShane) and concierge Charon (Lance Reddick, who died days before the film’s premiere).

Whereas Chapter 1 was a straightforward tale of revenge against a Russian crime boss’s son, by this outing the characters pitted against Keanu are more like the comic book villains that Marvel or DC superheroes face.

They are exaggerations from Marquis himself (a Swede playing a foppish Frenchman who really does say the words: “I will say this only once” during a scene in a stables) to a card shark in Berlin, who goes full “Mr Vick” with the accent and until I checked the cast list I was convinced was Rammstein front man Til Linderman in the fat suit he wore for the band’s Keine Lust video.

Manwhile sidekick of sorts McShane looks like he sent off for a set of those dodgy 20 quid snap on veneers on the internet.

From New York to Osaka to Berlin to the Tarantino does a spaghetti western climax at the top of the steps to the Sacre Coeur in Paris there are moments of surreal absurdity, but what a fantastic rollercoaster ride these films have been and Chapter 4 certainly doesn’t disappoint.

It’s high octane action carried out with an almost balletic grace.

At least it would be if prima ballerinas used samarai swords and pistols with rapid fire 21-shot magazines to lay waste to the tutu-wearing competition.

Stick around for the after credit sequence.

RATING: 8/10


Mick Ferris

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