John Wick: Chapter 4, by Albert W. Vogt III

As I drove away from the theater after seeing John Wick: Chapter 4, I grew reflective.  I wondered who is at fault for such a movie?  Is it the people who make this nonsense, or those who consume it, that are to blame.  I suppose I should be counted with the latter group.  After all, I paid for a ticket to sit through a three-hour film that is excessive to the point of absurdity.  My wandering thoughts landed on De La Soul.  They are a rap trio that has been together since the late 1980s.  Recently, one of their number, David “Trugoy the Dove” Jolicoeur, passed away.  If that is not foreshadowing for this movie, then perhaps you are thinking I am free associating?  At any rate, it got me thinking about the last track on their last album, And the Anonymous Nobody . . .’s “Exodus.”  In it, Trugoy the Dove asks rhetorically whether they are saviors or heroes before dismissing the idea.  He goes on, “We’re just common contributors hoping that what we create inspires you to selflessly challenge and contribute.  Sincerely, anonymously, nobody.”  This should be the motto for The Legionnaire.  We toil away in relative anonymity hoping to warn you away from material like John Wick: Chapter 4.

I wonder how short will be this synopsis of John Wick: Chapter 4?  I ask because the overwhelming majority of this is shooting, punching, kicking, more shooting, nunchucking, sword swinging, slicing, more shooting, getting hit by cars, jumping from buildings, falling down stair cases, more shooting, stabbing, exploding, dentistry(?), and more shooting.  How is that for excessive?  Thus, as we go along, whenever you read “see above,” please use that as filler for whatever action sequence the plot lands on in that moment.  Anyway, anyone remember what happens at the end of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019).  Not me.  Neither does it matter.  As is the usual modus operandi for the title character (Keanu Reeves), he is going to get revenge in John Wick: Chapter 4.  There is somebody named the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) who is helping John go after something called the High Table.  He hands John a gun and a suit and says go get ‘em, champ.  This takes place in New York, but the next thing we see is John on horseback chasing down three riders in the middle of the desert.  He ends up killing an Elder (George Georgiou).  Before the Elder dies, he tells John that his death will not change anything.  I have no idea what any of this this means so far, but I guess this is all part of John’s revenge rampage.  Do you recall when then was about a dead wife and dog?  No?  Anyway, back in New York, the representatives of the new High Table muckety-muck, Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), arrive at the Continental Hotel.  This, I remember, is where all the assassins employed by the High Table hang out.  However, because the hotel’s manager, Winston Scott (Ian McShane), aided John in the past, they have come to close down the establishment.  To put a finer point on it, though blow it up and kill the concierge, Charon (Lance Reddick, may he rest in peace).  Yet, John is not on hand.  Instead, he is in Osaka, Japan, hiding out in the Japanese equivalent of the Continental.  Present with those sent to deal with repeating the same process just witnessed in New York is Caine (Donnie Yen).  He is a former friend and associate of John’s, and the reason the Marquis is able to get Caine to go after John is because they promise him freedom to see his daughter.  Anyway, see above.  Another person who is there for the killing is somebody known as a Tracker, also going by Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson), and his dog.  He is on John’s trail, but waiting until the price on John’s head goes to the desired level.  Only then will he hunt down John.  John returns to New York and has a little catch-up with Winston.  Because Winston is now in the revenge business, too, he suggests that John challenge the Marquis to a duel.  To do so, he will need to invoke whatever ancient rite of their shadowy organization that the movie made up for this installment in the franchise.  The problem is that John currently has no status.  Thus, he must go back to his Belarussian family, which is hanging out in Berlin for some reason, to gain reinstatement.  To do this, he must kill a whole bunch of people at whom his former family is mad.  See above.  Having completed his side quests, John is now able to travel to Paris to make the requisite challenge.  This is delivered by Winston, who is angling to have his hotel restored by being John’s second.  The Marquis is duty bound to accept the challenge.  This is what brings John to Paris.  Yet, when it comes time to agree to terms, the Marquis chooses Caine to act as his proxy.  Still, the Marquis has no intention to of letting John getting to the pre-arranged location.  See above.  Anyway, the duel happens, but instead of killing Caine, John saves his last bullet for the Marquis.  Bruised, battered, shot, and seemingly infinitely tired, John asks Winston to take his body home before stumbling away to die.  The last scene is of the Bowery King and Winston standing at John and his wife’s gravestone.

As I have complained about in talking about other films of its ilk, John Wick: Chapter 4 has the annoying problem of relying on the audiences remembering key elements of previous films.  Perhaps I am alone here and that these movies are more a part of the collective cultural conscious than I realize?  It does not seem that way, but I could be wrong.  If those elements are still fresh in your brain, then what happens here undoubtedly made more sense to you than they did to me.  Ultimately, though, and I know this is something I have also said before, the bigger problem is the violence.  There is so much violence.  This is where my mind wandered off into a philosophical waxing and waning on my way home.  Are we as a society so desensitized to this stuff that we now enjoy it?  I am trying to find answers as to why they would feel that this amount of bloodshed is necessary.  Because it is so over-the-top, I found it to be boring, which is also problematic on a personal level.  John gets shot, jumps out of four-story buildings, gets run over by cars, falls off balconies, and walks away from all of them.  He endures all of that seemingly no worse for the wear, and yet dies of a gunshot wound to the stomach?  I realize those are tricky, but given everything else he endured, this seems mild in comparison.

If there is one good thing I can say about John Wick: Chapter 4, it is that at least the dog survived.  All life is precious in the eyes of God, if not to the makers of this film.  There was a time when I might have thought such material is cool.  These days, I long for simpler fare.  In my review for Sullivan’s Travels (1941), I mentioned that I was about to go see today’s film.  As my discussion of John Wick: Chapter 4 will be out sooner, I will say here, too, that my prediction for this one was correct: it is the violent mess that I thought it would be.  The point I am driving at here is that violence is not the answer.  Then again, without it, I suppose there is no movie.  Thus, what about the religious imagery in the film?  When John returns to his family, the Orthodox priest in the church pulls out a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun and empties both barrels into John.  Then there is the final duel, which takes place in front of Sacre Coeur Catholic Church in Paris, with the Harbinger (Clancy Brown) delivering final instructions in Latin.  Yes, thank you movie for adding to the stereotype of the Church being a part of some vast, global conspiracy.

There is no reason to see John Wick: Chapter 4.  Hopefully, this review will find you before you see it.  Stand up with me and the rest of the anonymous nobody by not going to the theaters or giving any more of your hard-earned dollars to those who made it.  Then again, maybe John’s death at the end will be real and we can leave this franchise behind us.

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