Meewella | Critic

According to P

Tag: Keanu Reeves

QuickView: John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”


With Chapter 3, I cautioned that the John Wick franchise was on the verge of diminishing returns through familiar repetition; in Chapter 4 it collapses under the weight of its High Table mythology in an overwrought and charmless instalment that runs to nearly three hours. Visual style remains front and centre with fighting figures silhouetted against beautifully lit Japanese decor in Osaka before moving to a Berlin rave, slick with cascading water and neon. The action choreography contains plenty of impressive moments and attention to detail, like a body pivoting on an arrow-pinned joint, but they are strung together in a manner more exhausting than entertaining, with little sense of fighting through interconnected spaces. With better editing, much of the first hour could be excised. Atrocious dialogue belabours the flimsy plot (“It looks like we have a conundrum. A quandary, if you will. A real life dilemma.”), though some new faces are welcome — Bill Skarsgård’s sneering French villain is easy to loathe, whilst Donnie Yen offers the charisma that Wick seems to have lost, playing a blind assassin with largely nonsensical combat abilities. The last hour of the film soars: a kinetic chase across Paris to Sacré-Cœur displays some of the best driving stunt choreography in recent memory, and a lengthy fight up and down the stairs to the church shows Wick earning every step. This strong closing may explain the predominantly positive response to a lumbering action film at nearly twice the length of this year’s similarly stylised Sisu. For all the merit of its individual moments, I cannot imagine wanting to sit through Chapter 4 again.


QuickView: The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

“The choice is an illusion. You already know what you have to do.”


Even with Hollywood’s penchant for the safety of franchise films and nostalgia, resurrecting this long-dormant series that had already steadily declined in quality came as something of a surprise, particularly as a sequel and not a wholesale reboot. The Matrix Resurrections seems equally awkward with this role, its opening act a self-aware, borderline parody as “Mr Anderson” finds himself developing a videogame sequel, complete with focus group survey results exploring the disparate reasons fans have been drawn to The Matrix, above all originality and freshness. It is bizarre but genuinely fun, and seems almost an apology for the turgid mess that follows. To her credit, Lana Wachowski (this time directing solo) does not simply retread old ground and chooses to examine the relationship between Neo and Trinity, exploring the extent to which our choices and identity are actually dependent on others. The first half of the film presents a compelling mystery as we try to understand how Neo and Trinity have survived and where they are, seemingly reinserted into the Matrix but robbed of their memories. Unfortunately the answers are underwhelming, arriving halfway into the film, and the second half is a real slog with the promise of an action-heavy resolution never really materialising. I have also never seen a sequel make such heavy use of previous footage, sometimes as fragmented memories, sometimes literally projected onto a set whilst similar events unfold. This tight link to the past makes reviving Morpheus and Agent Smith without their original actors all the more egregious. Astonishingly, given franchise’s reputation, there is not a single memorable action set piece in the entire film. People shoot a lot of automatic weapons, Keanu throws out protective forcefields from his hands, and a helicoptor hits a building again. The world of The Matrix always felt densely populated, both in the simulation and in Zion. Now it all feels like empty déjà vu.


QuickView: To The Bone (2017)

“I’ve got it under control. Nothing bad’s gonna happen.”


CN: Eating disorders

To The Bone works best as character study of a young woman in recovery for an eating disorder but struggles in its efforts to provide a compelling narrative framework. This is not an enjoyable film to watch, as Lily Collins’ enthralling performance makes it clear that, despite her protestations of control, Ellen is constantly on the verge of tragedy. There is dark humour in Ellen’s cynical attitude and undoubtedly some will perceive this as flippant or exploitative treatment of a serious disorder, though really it comes from grounded realism — indeed both Collins and writer-director, Marti Noxon, bring their own experiences to the project. Undoubtedly the shots of emaciated bodies could be triggering to some, but portrayal of the graphic reality is important to this film; it is not romanticised or fetishised. Noxon works primarily in television and To The Bone is rarely shot in a way that feels particularly cinematic — that works reasonably well within the confines of the group home, but it leaves the wider world feeling cramped. In its desire to be more universally representative, we never really get a sense of where Ellen’s trauma is rooted; the surface references make her seem more self-indulgent, and the sequence as she hits rock bottom feel trite as a result, even as the film successfully avoids feel-good cliché.


QuickView: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)

John Wick Chapter 3 poster

“Nothing’s ever just a conversation with you, John.”


John Wick: Chapter 3 picks up right where Chapter 2 ended, with John excommunicated from the cult-like order of assassins and a $14 million bounty placed on his head. Like its predecessor, the approach is very much more of the same brutal action, though it fixes a few flaws with fights lit more brightly and easier to follow. Parabellum (literally “prepare for war”) briefly moves the action to the middle east — with heavy overtones of the Assassin’s Creed franchise — but this diversion serves to confuse rather than expand the High Table mythos, becoming ultimately redundant as Wick returns to New York. A welcome change is the number of prominent female roles, Halle Berry proving her action chops in a fight I dubbed “revenge of the dogs”. John Wick‘s strength is a po-faced delivery whilst not taking itself seriously (“What do you need?” / “Guns, lots of guns”, says Keanu Reeves, repeating his line from The Matrix two decades earlier). This is a film in which he can ride a horse through the streets of New York whilst battling bikers. Despite this, a sense of familiar repetition is creeping into the series suggesting that we are on the verge of diminishing returns.


QuickView: The Bad Batch (2016)

“You don’t see things how they are. You only see things how you are.”

Miami Man

Following the success of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, which showcased a unique vision and flair for visual storytelling, Ana Lily Amirpour’s second feature is more ambitious in scope and frustratingly uneven. A bold opening twenty minutes with barely a word of dialogue follows Arlen as she is ejected from society into a desert wasteland and captured by cannibals. As time goes on, however, Suki Waterhouse’s sullen and confused expression makes Arlen a strange choice of lead despite some parallels with Alice tumbling down the rabbithole — and a disabled protagonist portrayed in an attractive light is welcome. Although beautifully shot with some big names turning in eccentric performances, the worldbuilding suffers from lack of breadth — that the expansive desert feels mostly empty is perhaps the point, as options for life in a harsh environment are limited without society, but we see a limited view of the communities that do exist. As a result, although some arresting images will no doubt linger, when the credits roll The Bad Batch‘s meandering musings largely scatter like sand in the wind.


QuickView: John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

John Wick: Chapter 2

“I can assure you that the stories you hear about John Wick, if nothing else, have been watered down.”


Much like The Raid 2, this overlong sequel provides more of the same high-octane action but strives to tell a wider story at the expense of its predecessor’s tight focus. Now the retired hitman is forced back into work to repay a debt, before a double-cross leaves him in the crosshairs of every assassin in New York, leading to a more familiar trail of vengeance. John Wick was a refreshing surprise for its stylised and visceral action. Chapter 2 serves up more of the same, although it is not always successful, like the repetitive and geographically confusing extended sequence in the catacombs of Rome, with visibility reduced to black and blues. John Wick works best as a character focused on single-minded revenge rather than as a cerebral professional, in part because the close quarters violence often veers toward the nasty. The ridiculous codified assassin mythos expands beyond The Continental hotel run by Ian McShane, one of the best additions being a cameo from Peter Serefinewicz as a “sommelier” discussing Wick’s predilections.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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