At The Movies: Four means more – action and John Wick – for nearly three hours

John Wick: Chapter 4 sees John Wick (Keanu Reeves) battling enemies in Japan and France. PHOTO: LIONSGATE

John Wick: Chapter 4 (M18)

170 minutes, opens on Thursday

4 stars

The story: Following the events of the previous film John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019), John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is still hiding from the elites known as the High Table. He flees to Osaka, Japan, to enlist the aid of old friend Koji Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada), but realises that the only way to truly free himself is to kill the High Table leader, The Marquis (Bill Skarsgard).

To accuse a new John Wick movie of looking the same as the last is like criticising water for being wet. This action thriller film series is beloved because of the purity of the structure – Wick goes there, kills some people; he goes to another place, kills more people.

One has to admire director Chad Stahelski, who helmed all four films, for not succumbing to sequel bloat in the quest for more box-office dollars.

A Wick movie is fan service in the best sense of the word – Stahelski and Reeves deserve respect for keeping Wick, Wick. It is why the loner has never found a love interest or an attractive young buddy.

Stahelski’s preferred way of combating repetitiveness is to switch weapons, locations and opponents. And, in the new film, the set piece battles are fabulous – ranging from a samurai museum in Osaka, where antique weapons are conveniently within Wick’s reach, to quiet parks in Paris.

And, of course, there is the gun battle in the disco, a favourite set-up of Stahelski.

The fourth movie’s almost-three-hour length feels like a swan song.

It is as if the star and director want to go out with a bang. As a send-off, it works, not least because it is clear that Reeves is no longer as quick as he used to be, and some fight scenes look more balletic than brutal.

Ending it here lets him exit the arena with dignity.

On the flip side, despite the attempts at novel backdrops, fight fatigue creeps in. The series has hit the limits of its format, which Stahelski has described as “just follow a cool guy”.

Donnie Yen in John Wick: Chapter 4. PHOTO: LIONSGATE

Wick is a cool guy, but it would take a guy of infinite charisma to make the marathon gun battles and sword fights become anything more than a blur after the first five minutes of viewing in a cinema.

For streaming audiences, though, they should provide high rewatch value, which was perhaps the point of the excess.

Hot take: This is the John Wick-iest John Wick yet, with the intense action that is the series hallmark, but which also might lead to nunchaku numbness and katana coma.

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