Let’s just start by saying that when John Wick: Chapter 4 — Tempus Bellum hits the theaters, we doubt you will need too much background from the first three chapters to follow along with the plot. And just hazarding a guess here, that plot will involve John Wick (Keanu Reeves) plodding along at a syncopated cadence in a dark suit engaging in hand-to-hand combat and shooting lots of people point blank in the face.
But enough about the future of the series and let’s focus on Chapter 3, which involves John Wick (Keanu Reeves) plodding along at a syncopated cadence in a dark suit engaging in hand-to-hand combat and shooting lots of people point blank in the face. We have seen this all before, of course, but the movie is surprisingly innovative in its delivery of gratuitous comic-book violence. The first major encounter, for example, takes place in the New York Public Library, where knowledge may be power, but a good sturdy book comes in handy if you want to beat someone’s face in. The action proceeds to an antique weapon shop (which I believe is right next to the NYPL) with extraordinary results. After a few more stops, including John Wick galloping on horseback through Manhattan, the movie finally slows down to catch its breath, at which point I think I fell asleep for a little bit. But when I woke up, they were back at it, moving from location to location, piling up the bodies all along the way.
The verdict? If you have been desensitized to this type of first-person gamer violence, this movie is a clear winner. L&D laughed out loud throughout — probably for a good two or three minutes straight in the antique shop scene — as a number of scenes were so patently absurd that the filmmakers must have intended them as comedy. Though I believe we were in the minority of the audience that viewed this as such, I’d like to think our laughter was infectious, and I heard some guffawing across the theater as the film proceeded.
But, wow, this is a violent film. I would wager that at least 100 people get shot point-blank in the face, many of them wearing some sort of head gear so the damage was not always immediately apparent, and that’s just the people who got shot. The movie also features more than its fair share of people getting shot in places other than the head, stabbed in and through the head, stabbed elsewhere, hit with a thrown knife, thrown off a building, etc, etc… Indeed, the variety in which people get killed will certainly overwhelm the uninitiated. The movie also features extremely innovative canine violence, including multiple dog-on-unit chomping incidents. Although the body count is probably in the high three digits, the movie also delivers on its fair share of maiming, branding, and cauterizing of the villains and principals alike as part of the parabellum. Some of it is camp, some of it for shock value, but you are bound to find something unsettling herein.
If you can handle the violence, you will probably like the visual aesthetic. The rainy city at night is fabulous, we head to the desert at one point, and finish off in some sort of glass museum where the violence takes place with the backdrop of some groovy, flowy lights and what appears to be a psychedelic Rolex commercial looping in the back. Although some of the big budget was spent on the talent (Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Anjelica Huston, Ian MacShane, as well as the knavish Mark Dacascos), most of it seems to have been spent making this the ultraviolent spectacle that it is.
I certainly won’t recommend this movie to everyone, but if this is your type of thing, this is your type of thing. You’ll laugh, you’ll wince, you’ll jump from your seat, and you’ll probably get a little sick to your stomach.
And, if not, well, here’s L’s takeaway:
Not for the faint of heart, weak of heart or even those having a heart…please set your pace makers to silent mode.