" I guess you used up all the ugly in the family "

MRQE Top Critic

Alias: Season Three

In its third season, Alias pulls off a hat trick with another round of pulpy page-turner adventure —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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With its stylish, jaw-dropping third act set in Paris, John Wick: Chapter 4 might very well qualify as the first ratatouille western.

Wick of Arabia

Mr. Wick (Keanu Reeves)
Mr. Wick (Keanu Reeves)

It’s another globetrotting adventure, with stops in the U.S., Jordan, Japan, Germany and France. And, as with the other chapters, the world of John Wick (let’s call it the “Wickipedia”) continues to expand, digging deeper into the mythology of the High Table and its intricate network of agents, codes of conduct and brutal violence.

For John Wick (Keanu Reeves, The Matrix), the stakes have never been higher; Chapter 4 starts with the bounty on his head set at $20 million and it doubles to $40 million during the movie’s climax. It’s no longer a simple kill order. He’s been elevated to “search and destroy.”

From an early scene that riffs on the best of the epics, like David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, to a climax that echoes the best of the westerns, like Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon, Chapter 4 is jam-packed with great moments. Clocking in at nearly 3 hours, there’s a whole lot of action and consequential events that take place. That includes the High Table condemning the Continental New York following Winston (Ian McShane, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) conducting business on Continental grounds. That’s a big, well-documented no-no in this world.

But the focus remains on John Wick and his ongoing quest to find peace by avenging the murders of his wife and dog. For John, the ultimate target is the Marquis, the snappiest, best-dressed villain to grace the silver screen in quite some time. And it helps having Bill Skarsgard — Pennywise from the It movies — fill the role; he’s cold, calm and cavalier.

Such Is Life

In so many respects, John Wick: Chapter 4 is virtuoso filmmaking; what’s needed is a bigger, better dictionary to describe this crazy series. As with the previous chapters, it’s all about going back to the basics of making a thrill machine, which includes some fantastic on-location action set pieces. And, as a bonus, there’s a relatively limited use of CGI, at least in comparison to the latest Marvel eye sores. The John Wick adventures are akin to what George Miller accomplished in Mad Max: Fury Road; each is a landmark of breathtaking stunt work exquisitely choreographed with human beings instead of a hard drive full of ones and zeroes.

In Chapter 4, the third act alone is worth the price of admission. It features three astonishing, series-defining action sequences back-to-back-to-back that set this chapter — and the series as a whole — apart from almost every other action series ever filmed.

The first is set around the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a tour de force as human bodies and automobiles duke it out in the thick of one of the world’s busiest traffic roundabouts.

That quickly segues into a seemingly single-take overhead view of a knock-down, drag-out fight laced with some explosive firepower in a dilapidated Parisian mansion.

And then it all comes to a head in a battle up 222 steps outside the Sacre Coeur de Montmartre. All the way up the steps. Then all the way back down. And all the way back up again.

The Marquis (Bill Skarsgard)
The Marquis (Bill Skarsgard)

It’s relentless.

It’s wildly entertaining.

And it culminates in a duel right outside the doors of the world-famous basilica. Cue the Ennio Morricone music.

It’s the kind of movie magic that will make it impossible to look at Paris — particularly the Eiffel Tower — the same old way ever again.

No One Escapes the Table

The concept of the “duel” is one of this chapter’s new facets of the High Table mythology. It’s fittingly low-tech for a globe-spanning community that mixes old-school fashion and technology with the latest advancements in both, including a stylish suit lined with Kevlar for Mr. Wick.

And, while the Man with No Name isn’t in Chapter 4, a new character referred to as “Mr. Nobody” does enter the picture. Shamier Anderson (Wynonna Earp) portrays this mysterious bounty hunter who manages to manipulate the Marquis into upping the bounty. In a bit of wit, Mr. Nobody also asks for a match to his 401(k). But Mr. Nobody plays it both ways as he both fights and assists John. Dark. Mysterious. Pretty quiet. And Mr. Nobody provides “emotional support” to the vicious dog at his side.

Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson)
Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson)

Another new character is Caine, a blind man with a long, storied past with John Wick. Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) dons the sunglasses and once again plays a blind fighter.

These new characters help set the stage for not only the already announced Chapter 5 (stay through the end credits for a tease of what’s still to come) but also likely pave the way for spinoffs in this ever evolving and always entertaining world of the High Table, the Continental and assassins with a code.

John Wick defies the odds by outsmarting and outfighting one opponent after another. Similarly, John Wick the movie series has managed to defy the odds by going four chapters deep and still sustaining a high level of quality and entertainment value that continues to make the thought of one more chapter extremely appealing.

There’s a mystical side to this world that is teased here and there, but it could and should be explored further. Maybe we’ll finally be seeing more of that the next time we meet up with Mr. Wick.