NEW YORK (OSV News) – Saul has slain his thousands and Keanu Reeves his tens of thousands. Or so, at least, it seems by the end of the close to three hour-long festival of fatality that is “John Wick: Chapter 4” (Lionsgate).
Stylish savagery is the order of the day as Reeves reprises his role as the hitman of the title. Wick’s ongoing struggle to break free of the High Table, the ultra-powerful behind-the-scenes criminal empire that once claimed his allegiance, becomes the cue for innumerable doomed extras to bite the dust. They prove as actuarially unsound as a Russian general in Ukraine.
A couple of Wick’s adversaries have speaking parts, however, and so manage to offer more long-lasting opposition. One such is Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), the foppish French nobleman the High Table leaders have entrusted with the task of exterminating the apparently indestructible Wick. He’s not the first to find this a tall order.
A nameless bounty hunter (Shamier Anderson), acting independently, is also on Wick’s trail. He’s accompanied by an attack dog who, at his command, variously disembowels or castrates those who get in his master’s way.
Wick gets unstinting aid from his old Osaka-based ally Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada). But two other former friends, blind assassin Caine (Donnie Yen) and disgraced High Table satrap Winston Scott (Ian McShane), find their loyalties conflicted.
In adding to a series that got its start in 2014, franchise director Chad Stahelski helms a visually interesting but morally befuddled thriller whose deliberately over-the-top mayhem makes a visceral appeal to viewers while simultaneously winking at them. His movie’s incidental treatment of religion is also unpleasantly ambiguous and sometimes barely skirts sacrilege.
Thus, at one point, an Orthodox priest in the middle of a church service suddenly produces a shotgun from under his vestments. Obviously ruthless villains are shown at prayer and widower Wick himself pauses from his killing spree long enough to light a candle for his deceased wife – just in case, the dialogue later explains, his disbelief in an afterlife should turn out to be wrong.
The mumbo jumbo associated with the High Table, moreover, includes Latin phrases hijacked from Catholicism and the movie’s climactic showdown unfolds on the terrace of Paris’ Sacre Coeur Basilica. Piled on top of a body count that might put a serious dent in the census figures, these details will steer wise moviegoers clear of this bloody capping off of a queasy quartet.
The film contains excessive nasty violence with much gore, brief irreverent humor, at least one mild oath, several rough terms and considerable crude language. The OSV News classification is O – morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.