John Wick: Chapter 4 (15, 169 mins)
Verdict: Excessively long
Infinity Pool (18, 117 mins)
Verdict: Excessively gruesome
There have been medium-sized wars with a lower death toll than this latest instalment in the murderous life of John Wick, as usual played by Keanu Reeves with an unyielding frown and words of mostly one syllable.
The average life span of an extra in John Wick: Chapter 4 can’t be more than five seconds, from first appearance to termination by bullet, blade or collision with a hard surface.
The corollary to this, as ever, is the indestructability of Wick himself. He is the Rasputin of the action genre, repelling attempted assassinations like you or I might fend off bluebottles.
The average life span of an extra in John Wick: Chapter 4 can’t be more than five seconds, from first appearance to termination by bullet, blade or collision with a hard surface
Of course, our laconic, lank-haired hero has been doing this since the first film in the series, back in 2014, when he came out of retirement because someone killed his puppy.
Prior to that, you’ll recall, he had been the world’s greatest assassin. Usefully, now that he’s in the business of avoiding rather than delivering the chop, he’s still the world’s greatest.
The alarming velocity with which speeding cars strike him, and indeed with which he strikes the ground after leaping through sixth-floor windows, is never quite enough to leave him with more than a temporary limp.
As for the plot, which whisks us from New York to Paris by way of Osaka and Berlin, that need hardly detain us. Mind you, I sometimes wonder whether the John Wick writers regret calling their shadowy organisation of baddies ‘the High Table’.
Ian Fleming knew what he was doing when he chose SPECTRE. But the High Table just doesn’t cut it, especially when it is shortened to ‘the Table’.
If only Wick were able to laugh, which he hasn’t done since the distressing puppy affair, it would surely tickle him to hear that the Table has taken out an $18 million hit on him.
Of course, our laconic, lank-haired hero has been doing this since the first film in the series, back in 2014, when he came out of retirement because someone killed his puppy
Anyway, the chair of the Table is an aristocratic French dandy, the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard), whose strategy for despatching 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 gold-toothed gambler (Scott Adkins) and a blind but brilliant swordsman called Caine (splendidly played by the Hong Kong martial arts star Donnie Yen).
Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne and the late Lance Reddick, in his last screen role, all reprise their characters from the previous films, supplying gravitas by the thimble-load. That’s about the right measure, because this movie can’t afford to take itself too seriously.
It can’t afford a running-time of well over two and a half hours, either, but director Chad Stahelski evidently couldn’t resist. The result is overkill in more ways than one. All that said, there are some extraordinary fight sequences, leavened with cherishable wit. I loved a scene by the Arc de Triomphe which gives a considerable twist to the everyday difficulty of crossing the road in Paris, and Stahelski pays his own unique form of homage to the great comedy stars of the silent era by having Wick fight his way up the 222 steps to the Sacre-Coeur basilica only, repeatedly, to tumble all the way down again.
It can’t afford a running-time of well over two and a half hours, either, but director Chad Stahelski evidently couldn’t resist
Even within such a violent context, it’s great slapstick. Buster Keaton, I fancy, would have doffed his pork pie hat in respect
Even within such a violent context, it’s great slapstick. Buster Keaton, I fancy, would have doffed his pork pie hat in respect.
In terms of new releases it’s quite a week for the Skarsgard family. Not only does Bill play John Wicks’s nemesis but his brother Alexander is the star of Infinity Pool, a psychological thriller-horror that shapes up to be very good indeed, only to become regrettably overwrought in the final third.
Skarsgard plays James Foster, a novelist staying 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 fortune.
They are beautiful, decadent, and bored. He has come to the hotel to find ‘inspiration’ for his unwritten second novel.
Then he meets a charismatic young Englishwoman, Gabi (Mia Goth), and her Swiss husband Alban (Jalil Lespert). Claiming to have recognised James and to have loved his book, Gabi does not hide her attraction to him, which leads to a decidedly graphic sex act when the two couples recklessly leave the resort for a day on a remote beach.
In terms of new releases it’s quite a week for the Skarsgard family. Not only does Bill play John Wicks’s nemesis but his brother Alexander (pictured) is the star of Infinity Pool, a psychological thriller-horror that shapes up to be very good indeed
That evening, James drives them all back to the hotel, but on the way hits and kills an islander. He is duly arrested, and told that according to local laws he faces execution, which must be administered by the children of the man he has killed. But there is a way out.
As part of a new ‘tourism initiative’ he can pay for the police to clone him, so that his double can be executed instead.
To this point, the story is an unsettling but rather brilliant satire about the spoilt rich, not unlike the recent films Triangle Of Sadness and The Menu, and the wonderful TV drama White Lotus.
But from then on director Brandon Cronenberg, cranking up the body-horror imagery and sexual themes so beloved of his father David Cronenberg (who made the acclaimed 1996 shocker Crash), rampantly overdoes it, so that by the end it’s not just his ghastly characters who have bitten off more than they can chew.
Give this Beast of a thriller 2 hours of your time
For anyone who yearns for brevity in cinematic storytelling, it is not a good week. John Wick: Chapter 4 and Infinity Pool (both reviewed above) are a good deal longer than they need to be, and The Beasts a suspenseful thriller partly in Spanish and partly French, weighs in at a mighty two hours and 17 mins. Yet it is worth the investment of time.
It stars Denis Menochet, the French actor best known by English-speaking audiences for playing the farmer who at the start of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, with a Jewish family hiding in his basement, is chillingly toyed with by Christoph Waltz’s SS officer. Here he is once again a farmer subjected to intimidation tactics, but this time they’re far more crude.
Menochet plays Antoine, a well-heeled Frenchman who with his wife Olga (Marina Fois) has moved to northern Spain to fulfil the dream of running an organic farm.
But a pair of sly local brothers, Xan (Luis Zahera) and Lorenzo (Diego Anido), take against them, especially when the ‘Frenchies’ oppose plans for a lucrative wind farm.
At first, their antipathy just seems like 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 far darker. (In cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema.)
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk