«We are the MTV Generation» say Bart and Lisa in an episode of The Simpsons , when Homer is about to share the news of his triple coronary bypass.
“Nothing you say can upset us. We feel neither the highs nor the lows . ” Here, if the overload of visual and sound stimuli has desensitized entire generations, John Wick 4 seems like a clumsy attempt to defuse that apathy, according to the all-Hollywood logic of ” go bigger ” ( and longer, we might add).
It is the law of the cinema of attractions: a mechanism always forced to surpass itself, in a desperate game of relaunching to beg for the interest of the public.
The case of John Wick is emblematic because the saga takes hold from a relatively small film, whose success has prompted Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment to dramatically inflate its premises. Of course, the idea of a criminal underworld with its own rules already existed in the first chapter, but the sequels have expanded it to blockbuster dimensions. However, the third film managed to strike the right balance between individual story and world building , while John Wick 4it completely loses its sense of proportion: in its 2 hours and 49 minutes, full of deafening barrels and beatings, we almost end up forgetting what our hero’s purpose is. Indeed, what is the lethal ex-hitman fighting for? Obtained revenge after the death of the dog – or the memory / fetish of his deceased wife – John seeks freedom from the High Table, the union that governs all the criminal organizations in the world, but now seems to proceed by inertia, guided more by instinct than by reason . There is a new adversary who is hunting him, the Marquis de Gramont ( Bill Skarsgård ), charged by the High Table to find and kill him: to this end, he hires the highly skilled blind killer Caine (Donnie Yen ), a friend of John’s , but the size on his head is also coveted by many others.
It is clear that the aforementioned world building surpasses any other requirement, including plot and logic. Mind you, even the third film had bent to the tentpole rules , but John Wick 4 seems to be more concerned with introducing spin-offs than with telling a story: characters like Akira ( Rina Sawayama ), Mr. Nobody ( Shamier Anderson ) and the same Caine are there for that. There is an excessive fragmentation of the story, closer to the logic of videogames than cinematographic narration. New writers Shay Hatten and Michael Finchbuild an adventure full of submissions and “minibosses” that dilute the plot, where the clear split between moments of dialogue and action – complete with music that changes when enemies appear – is reminiscent of videogame entertainment. An evolution, this, definitively sanctioned by the sequence shot in an isometric view: as if the director Chad Stahelski decided to reveal the cards and reveal the fiction of the game, through the scenography. The opponents themselves are faceless individuals who arrive in incalculable droves, and John eliminates them from first to last as in a shooter, moreover with a virtually infinite energy bar.
John Wick 4 thus celebrates the saga’s transition to a sort of parallel universe, all nightclubs and neon lights, iconic places that are always empty and the sun on the horizon. There is no everyday life in this world: criminals are free to do what they want, institutions have not arrived (how long can you kill yourself under the Arc de Triomphe without the police intervening?), and the light is always twilight, dawn or artificial. The rule of cool dominates everywhere. We see characters who fire “philosophical” sentences in response to simple questions, or people dressed very cool who continue to dance even when Scott Adkins – he is really funny, nothing to say – whirlwind kicks with the fat suit. It is also curious how the film looks for illustrious ancestors (the card game of Casino Royale , the blind warrior of Zatoichi , the duel at dawn by Barry Lindon …), but stops on the surface of things: even excluding the casual existentialism of the jokes, in fact, the cultural references are always banal. If the characters go to the Louvre, for example, the paintings that appear are the most recognizable ones, namely The Raft of the Medusa and Liberty Leading the People . If they go to the ballet, Swan Lake is rehearsing on stage . If they recite a passage from Dante ‘s Inferno, obviously it is the incipit. And so on.
These naive attempts at legitimization make one smile, but the real problem is that the anxiety of breaking through the wall of apathy leads the film on the road to paroxysm, with involuntarily comic excesses in the last act. Of course, Keanu Reeves ‘ physical commitment is evident, and Chad Stahelski is still capable of shooting the action: unfortunately, however, the skill in choreographing and filming the clashes is not enough. The fights go on for so long, and with such absurd situations, that addiction is soon triggered. With its overabundance of sensory stimulation, John Wick 4wants to awaken us from the desensitizing numbness of pop culture, but ends up only contributing to the same background noise. We come out tired and dazed and foggy, wondering what they’ll come up with next time just to make us feel something.