‘John Wick:’ A beautiful choreography of mayhem

Keanu Reeves, aka John Wick, is a relentless killer who gets the job done. Photo: Netflix

By Rene Pastor

At the start of this Zen-like franchise, Keanu Reeves was called the Baba Yaga, the boogeyman feared in the underworld as a relentless killer who always gets it done no matter the odds.

In Chapter 4 of a series that has drawn a cult-like following worldwide for the life and body count of an assassin whose campaign of revenge reached its zenith in Paris, the ending of the movie hit a crescendo for seemingly showing the death of Wick as his tombstone stands side-by-side with his wife Helen.

Like the classic Japanese film “Seven Samurai,” Reeves plows through an army of fighters from the High Table, the mythical group that runs the world’s contract killers, to reach the duel against its head and eventually kills him with a head shot.

By winning his duel, John Wick redeems his honor, and restores the fortunes of his top supporter, Ian McShane, in the movie as the manager of the New York Continental, where assassins stay when they are in town for business.  

The chief merit of the movie, ignoring the fact that Reeves has only 380 words of dialogue in its nearly three-hour screen time as noted in a Yahoo film review, is the unadorned beautiful choreography of the mayhem on screen. From the running battles in Osaka to the whirling shoot-out in Paris, one could see the care with which the fight scenes were shot.

The Wick films go back to something basic in moviemaking. Filming the blood and gore of scenes takes a lot of careful moviemaking. In the age of CGI, that skill has been lost a bit under a welter of laser shows and gimmicks in science fiction, fantasy and animated movies. “John Wick” brought all that back center stage. The world is violent and in Wick’s existence, it is literally kill or be killed. To make sure the enemy is gone, you dish  out a head shot, even two for good measure.

Even though Reeves and his director feel JW 4 should be the last flick, the strong performance of the film at the only measure worth tracking, its box office, raises the pressure on Lionsgate to convince its stars to come back for a Chapter 5.

Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.

The current movie was dedicated to Lance Reddick, the actor who plays the concierge Charon at the New York Continental, who passed away in real life after the film was finished.

The most famous line in the movie is the prosaic “Such is life,” a stoic acceptance that the turns of living is often unfair and one just has to go on and deal with it.

Donnie Yen was superb as the blind assassin, as was Scott Adkins — gold teeth and body suit with a flying kick to match.

If JW 4 is the last movie in this franchise, it ended on a high note. Maybe John Wick is gone and the Baba Yaga is now at peace. McShane’s character said it well at the end of the movie. “Farewell, my son” while tapping Wick’s tombstone.

We hope Wick somehow comes back for Chapter 5, but this one is a pretty good way to conclude the franchise.

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