John Wick: Chapter 4 (15, 169 minutes)
Verdict: too long
Infinity pool (18, 117 min)
Verdict: Outrageously horrific
There have been medium-sized wars with lower death tolls than this latest installment in the murderous life of John Wick, played as usual by Keanu Reeves with an unyielding frown and words of mostly one syllable.
The average lifespan of an extra in John Wick: Chapter 4 cannot exceed five seconds, from the first appearance to being terminated by a bullet, knife, or impact with a hard surface.
The consequence of this, as always, is the indestructibility of Wick himself. He’s the Rasputin of the action genre, fending off assassination attempts the way you or I can fend off bluebottles.
The average lifespan of an extra in John Wick: Chapter 4 cannot exceed five seconds from first appearance to being terminated by a bullet, knife, or impact with a hard surface
Of course, our laconic, straight-haired hero has been doing this since the first movie in the series, in 2014, when he retired because someone killed his puppy.
Before that, as you recall, he was the world’s greatest assassin. Helpfully, now that he’s into avoiding rather than delivering the chop, he’s still the world’s best.
The alarming speed with which speeding cars hit him, and indeed with which he hits the ground after jumping through the windows on the sixth floor, is never enough to leave him with a more than temporary limp.
As for the plot, which takes us from New York to Paris via Osaka and Berlin, that need hardly stop us. Mind you, I sometimes wonder if the John Wick writers regret calling their shadowy organization of bad guys “the High Table.”
Ian Fleming knew what he was doing when he chose SPECTER. But the High Table just doesn’t cut it, especially when shortened to “the Table.”
If Wick could only laugh, which he hasn’t since the disturbing puppy affair, it would certainly tickle him to learn that the table took an $18 million hit on him.
Of course, our laconic, straight-haired hero has been doing this since the first movie in the series, in 2014, when he retired because someone killed his puppy
Anyway, the seat of the table is an aristocratic French dandy, the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard), whose strategy of sending Wick risks falling between several stools.
Among those heavily invested in our hero’s fate in this ambitious hybrid of an action movie and an IKEA store are an African-American mercenary (Shamier Anderson) with a menacing dog, a resourceful Japanese hotelier (Hiroyuki Sanada), a gambler with gold teeth (Scott Adkins) and a blind but brilliant swordsman named Caine (beautifully played by Hong Kong martial arts star Donnie Yen).
Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne and the late Lance Reddick, in his final screen role, all reprise their characters from the previous films and deliver gravitas through the thimble-load. That’s about the right size, because this movie can’t afford to take itself too seriously.
It also cannot afford a running time of more than two and a half hours, but director Chad Stahelski apparently could not resist. The result is exaggerated in more ways than one. That said, there are some extraordinary fight scenes, infused with nurturing humour. I loved a scene at the Arc de Triomphe that puts a considerable twist on the everyday difficulty of getting across the road in Paris, and Stahelski pays his own unique form of homage to the great comic stars of the silent era by making Wick himself a fighting its way up the 222 steps to the Basilica Sacre-Coeur alone, repeatedly, only to tumble all the way back down.
It also can’t afford a running time of over two and a half hours, but director Chad Stahelski apparently couldn’t resist
Even in such a violent context, it’s great slapstick. Buster Keaton, I think, would have taken off his porkpie hat out of respect
Even in such a violent context, it’s great slapstick. Buster Keaton, I think, would have taken off his porkpie hat out of respect.
It’s been quite a week for the Skarsgard family in terms of new releases. Not only does Bill play John Wicks’ nemesis, but his brother Alexander is the star of Infinity Pool, a psychological thriller-horror that turns out to be very good indeed, but unfortunately gets overwrought in the final third.
Skarsgard plays James Foster, a novelist residing at a five-star resort on an otherwise poverty-stricken Indian Ocean island whose glamorous lifestyle belies his lack of professional success.
In fact, the money comes from his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman), heiress to a publishing house.
They are beautiful, decadent and bored. He has come to the hotel to get ‘inspiration’ for his unwritten second novel.
Then he meets a charismatic young Englishman, Gabi (Mia Goth), and her Swiss husband Alban (Jalil Lespert). Gabi claims to have recognized James and loved his book, and does not hide her attraction to him, leading to a decidedly graphic sexual act when the two couples recklessly leave the resort for a day at a secluded beach.
It’s been quite a week for the Skarsgard family in terms of new releases. Not only does Bill play John Wicks’ nemesis, but his brother Alexander (pictured) is the star of Infinity Pool, a psychological thriller-horror that seems to be getting very good indeed
That night, James drives them all back to the hotel, but hits and kills an islander on the way. He is duly arrested and told he is to be executed according to local laws, which must be carried out by the children of the man he killed. But there is a way out.
As part of a new “tourism initiative,” he may pay the police to clone him so that his doppelgänger can be executed instead.
So far, the story is a disturbing but rather brilliant satire on the spoiled rich, similar to the recent films Triangle Of Sadness and The Menu, and the wonderful TV drama White Lotus.
But from then on, director Brandon Cronenberg ramps up the body-horror imagery and sexual themes that were so beloved by his father David Cronenberg (who made the critically acclaimed 1996 shocker Crash) and exaggerates it rampantly so that in the end it isn’t just his gruesome characters are. who have bitten off more than they can chew.
Give this beast of a thriller 2 hours of your time
For anyone who craves brevity in cinematic storytelling, it’s not a good week. John Wick: Chapter 4 and Infinity Pool (both reviewed above) are much longer than they need to be, and The Beasts, a suspenseful thriller part Spanish and part French, weighs in at a whopping two hours and 17 minutes. Still, it’s worth the time investment.
It stars Denis Menochet, the French actor best known to the English-speaking public for playing the farmer who, at the beginning of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, with a Jewish family hiding in his basement, is horribly played by the SS officer of Christoph Waltz. Here he is again a farmer subjected to intimidation tactics, but this time they are much coarser.
Menochet plays Antoine, a wealthy Frenchman who has moved to northern Spain with his wife Olga (Marina Fois) to fulfill the dream of running an organic farm.
But a pair of scheming local brothers, Xan (Luis Zahera) and Lorenzo (Diego Anido), take on them, especially when the ‘Frenchies’ oppose plans for a lucrative wind farm.
At first, their antipathy just seems like an unpleasant but essentially harmless provincial xenophobia. But with great skill, director Rodrigo Sorogoyen, while also incorporating themes of family and gender, turns it into something much darker. (In movie theaters and on Curzon Home Cinema.)