Review: Latest Wick movie pulls out all the stops

Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate)

When I saw “John Wick” back in 2014, I thought the movie was a fine and fun action-noir flick with a lot of heart that might give Keanu Reeves’ career a third act.

I truly underestimated the potential of what has become one of the more beloved and successful film series of our time. It’s no Star Wars, Marvel, or Harry Potter in terms of box office and draw, but to its fans, the John Wick Saga is every bit as engrossing and exciting. Four films in, it seems to have as much forward momentum as any of those franchises if not more with the world built around Reeves’ lead character.

The creatives behind the John Wick movies may understand its fans better than than any other film series currently being produced. Clocking in at nearly, three hours, “John Wick: Chapter 4” is an adrenaline train that delivers action and mayhem in a thoroughly enjoyable manner. It didn’t feel like a three-hour sit.

Honestly, I was not looking forward to seeing the movie. The last film in the series “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum” from 2019 got a bit convoluted for me. All the plot machinations got in the way of the action that I came to see, and if I have a criticism of the “John Wick: Chapter 4,” it would be along those same lines. I’d prefer a leaner version — more like the original film — as this film series continues.

However, I had a great time watching the movie that climaxes with a stunning, even shocking ending.

This is a movie that if you are interested in seeing, I’d suggest going quickly before you stumble across bits of information that you probably don’t want know before seeing the film.

Reeves gives another fun yet understated performance as Wick, the retired hitman who was drawn back into this wicked game when his puppy was killed during an attack in the first film. Wick is neck deep in this underground war of brutality and honor among killers and thieves that’s taken to the nth level in this outrageously satisfying movie with its bloodshed and “car-fu” action around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Reeves reminds me a bit of John Wayne in some of his latter performances in films like “The Cowboys” and “The Shootist.” Reeves understands just what made “The Duke” so endearing as a performer even at an advanced age. He was tough, and yet still vulnerable.

In this day, where Harrison Ford is still making action movies and TV Westerns at 80, Reeves, 58, is still climbing up that hill. Reeves has gone from being a star movie-goers enjoyed in the early 1990s but still made fun of for his “bro” voice and mannerisms in period pieces like “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” to one nearly everyone enjoys watching in whatever he chooses to be in.

According to the film’s director Chad Stahelski the film includes 14 action set pieces, and Reeves to tumble around gloriously in each and every one of them.

Old pals like Ian McShane as Winston Scott, the manager of the The Continental, and Laurence Fishburne as The Bowery King return, and noted martial artists/actors Donnie Yen and Scott Adkins appear in the film, adding even more gravitas. However Bill Skarsgard (Pennywise in “It”) is the chief antagonist for Wick and plays the role very well.

The action, stunts, and pacing in this film glow. It’s a long movie, but again it didn’t seem like it. Where many super-hero movies stick with the tried and true, four films in the Wick movies are still showing me new action or at least framing it creatively enough that it remains fresh.

Again my tastes gravitate more toward a leaner and more straight-to-the-point production, but I had a fun time with “John Wick: Chapter 4.” It’s the best in the series since the first.

(R) 2 hr. 49 min.
Grade: B

New in Local Theaters – March 24, 2023

John Wick: Chapter 4 (R) 2 hr. 49 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight)
The Lost King (PG-13) 1 hr. 49 min. (trailer)(Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
Moving On (R) 1 hr. 25 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
Return to Seoul (R) 1 hr. 55 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square)

Classic Corner – Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

(Sony/Columbia Industries)

While Peter Sellers may be most fondly remembered for playing the clumsy detective Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther comedies, it’s his triple role in “Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” that stands foremost in my mind when I remember the accomplished comedian.

The outrageous film, directed by Stanley Kubrick, set the standard for satire and black comedy in 1964 that most attempts have fallen short of over the last 59 years. The film remains vital all this time later as the United States continues to struggle with similar issues so many years later.

The film sends up the Cold War fears of global nuclear war that were at their height in the mid-1960s. Those fears were real and not exactly funny, but Kubrick’s film absolutely is.

Sellers is the backbone of the movie as Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake of England, as President Merkin Muffley, and the wheelchair bound Dr. Strangelove, a nuclear war expert and former Nazi.

The absurdity of one actor playing all three parts is genius commentary, showing there’s not a ton of difference at the heart of each of the characters when you whittle away their eccentricities.

George C. Scott gives a memorable performance as Gen. Buck Turgidson, while Slim Pickens brings his cantankerous charisma to the part of Major T.J. “King” Kong.

The film is a must-see for comedy fans and history buffs alike. It’s playing on Turner Classics at 7 tonight. The film can also be streamed on Amazon Prime Video