Review: John Wick Gets Even More Stylish in Fourth Episode

US actor Keanu Reeves arrives for the Los Angeles Premiere of "John Wick: Chapter 4" at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, on March 20, 2023. (AFP)
US actor Keanu Reeves arrives for the Los Angeles Premiere of "John Wick: Chapter 4" at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, on March 20, 2023. (AFP)
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Review: John Wick Gets Even More Stylish in Fourth Episode

US actor Keanu Reeves arrives for the Los Angeles Premiere of "John Wick: Chapter 4" at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, on March 20, 2023. (AFP)
US actor Keanu Reeves arrives for the Los Angeles Premiere of "John Wick: Chapter 4" at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, on March 20, 2023. (AFP)

A trip to Paris should be on everyone’s bucket list, even John Wick. The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre — what better way to refresh your soul, even as you kick everyone else’s bucket?

The un-retired assassin does indeed dive into the City of Lights in the inventive and thrilling “John Wick: Chapter 4” a sequel which elevates and expands the franchise. The fourth installment is more stylish, more elegant and more bonkers — kind of like Paris itself.

When we last saw Wick, he was half dead in the gutter after being shot and tumbling several stories off the Hotel Continental in New York. He was on the blacklist with a $14 million price on his head. (Inflation has even hit this franchise: The bounty swells to $40 million by the end of part four.)

Wick, as always played with monosyllabic and brooding intensity by Keanu Reeves, leaves his customary trail of death, but there’s a shift here. So often the prey in the previous movies, Wick is on the offense in the fourth, taking his demands directly to The High Table, the group of shadowy crime lords that keep order.

This time, the Table’s sadistic frontman is a dandy called the Marquis, played with coiled menace by Bill Skarsgård, who spouts things like: “Second chances are the refuge of men who fail.” But he’s a secret coward, so feel free to boo loudly.

The nine-fingered Wick wants to end his nightmare, naturally, by killing everyone. His too-cool frenemy, Ian McShane’s Winston, challenges him to think differently: “Have you learned nothing?” he asks the man who, to be honest, he shot in the last movie. “You’ll run out of bullets before they run out of heads.”

Returning writer Shay Hatten, along with co-writer Michael Finch, have come up with a possible solution for Wick: Win an old-fashioned duel with the Marquis. Win and be free, lose and be buried.

Not so fast, of course. Along the way, Wick must somehow handle the blind martial arts master Caine, played by Donnie Yen, bringing humor and verve to a fighter who is tasked with either slaying his one-time friend or have his daughter killed.

There’s also Killa, a jumbo-sized card shark played by martial arts star Scott Adkins, and The Tracker, a very talented bounty hunter played by Shamier Anderson. Don’t forget a swarm of Paris-based amateur bounty-hunters and armored ninjas who seem as plentiful as the city’s baguettes.

All the touches you expect from a Wick flick are here — a cool dog, hand-to-hand combat amid glass display cases, candles and Christian iconography, galloping horses, the screech of metal swords and a new way to hurt someone, in this case, a single playing card. We visit Germany, Japan and end in France, even going to a disused subway platform.

Returning director Chad Stahelski loves combining neon with gloom and now has the budget to rent out space in the Louvre. Of the 14 action sequences — yes, 14 — a few are truly mind-blowing, like a fight in the middle of the traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe and a drone capturing a complicated set piece in a building involving what is being called a dragon’s breath shotgun. Repeating that last bit: dragon’s breath shotgun.

If there was a bit of a slog through would-be assassins in “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum” — you know, shoot, stab, repeat — there is none here. One sequence on a set of outdoor stairs in Paris is almost riotously funny as knives and guns blast away, while the filmmakers add water and fire to a nightclub rave scene that puts clueless dancers next to axe-throwing murderers.

A shout-out to costume designer Paco Delgado, who has outfitted the baddie gunmen in light-colored three-piece suits and combat boots, and the executive baddies in fitted elegance with extravagant cravat-style ties. One of the film’s saddest parts is saying goodbye to Lance Reddick, who played Continental Hotel concierge Charon and died on the eve of the movie’s debut.

How does this all end? Actually, on something of a deflating note. Earlier in the film, Wick’s Japan-based friend Shimazu — played awesomely by Hiroyuki Sanada — had asked a question that eternally hangs over this franchise: “Have you given any thought to how this ends?”

This chapter ends in death, of course. But that’s also how it lives.



Football Fever Inspires Unusual Opera in Germany

A singer performs during a football opera in Hamburg, Germany, June 15, 2024. (Reuters)
A singer performs during a football opera in Hamburg, Germany, June 15, 2024. (Reuters)
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Football Fever Inspires Unusual Opera in Germany

A singer performs during a football opera in Hamburg, Germany, June 15, 2024. (Reuters)
A singer performs during a football opera in Hamburg, Germany, June 15, 2024. (Reuters)

Football fever at Euro 2024 in Germany is being felt not only inside packed stadiums, raucous bars and heaving city squares - but also in the more rarefied atmosphere of an opera house.

On the banks of the Elbe river in Hamburg, one of the tournament's host cities, a new production called the "Fussballoper" (Football Opera) is selling out to lovers of both sport and music.

The work by director Inken Rahardt recreates a football pitch and the chaotic interactions between players, referee and ball, mixing fan chants with traditional arias and pop songs.

Naturally, it lasts 90 minutes: the time of a game.

"The connection between football and opera is just perfect," Rahardt said on another busy night at the Opernloft (Opera Loft) venue in a trendy part of Germany's second-largest city.

"The hall is buzzing, people are happy, they recognize the soccer moves, connect that with the emotional music of opera and just have a great evening."

Songs range from the Champions League anthem to Giacomo Puccini's "Nessun dorma" - with plenty of participation from spectators in colorful hats and scarves.

"It's a big mix of everything, different genres," said singer Freja Sandkamm, who plays a referee and quipped that her biggest challenge was to suppress her normal opera voice and learn how to "belt" out football songs instead.

Spectators were delighted.

One lady said she was finally able to bring her football-loving partner to the opera, while others praised the imaginative albeit surreal fusion of entertainment cultures.

"I chose it for the combination really because I thought it's really a good way to attract people that maybe are not going to opera very much," said York Rudhard, 53, a pharmaceutical scientist from Hamburg.