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John Wick
Chapter 4

Director – Chad Stahelski – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 169m

** The first hour or so.

***** The last hour and a half or so.

The eponymous assassin is given a path to follow that will rid him and others of his obligations to shadowy organisation The High Table once and for all – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 24th

The fourth episode in the John Wick franchise is not a film to come to without seeing the previous three first – and in the recent past, so they’re fresh in your memory. That was the mistake this reviewer made. Too much in the first hour or so refers back to what has gone before. Characters wander through vast urban or other sets (there’s an early sequence in the open North African desert) often spouting ponderous dialogue.

This works if you have an actor of the calibre of Ian McShane, who plays Winston, the deferential owner of the New York Continental Hotel, and, perhaps surprisingly, it also works with the franchise’s action star Keanu Reeves, who has got the delivery of grunts and one word dialogue lines (“yeah”) down to a fine art.

Even so, the surfeit of overly talky scenes in the first hour or so tends towards the tedious.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Gladiator
(2000)

Director – Ridley Scott – 2000 – US – 15 – 155m

*****

UK Release 12th May 2000.

Initiated by screenwriter David Franzoni (Amistad, Steven Spielberg, 1997) at DreamWorks, this picked up definitive cinematic stylist Ridley Scott, who created the seminal futuristic cityscape of Blade Runner (1982). Elsewhere, Scott’s downside is that his visuals notoriously swamp character and plot. Thelma & Louise (1991), his best film in the interim eighteen odd years, sidestepped precisely this pitfall. Gladiator, however, is more like Blade Runner. The plot is fine as far as it goes – which is far enough to deliver a halfway decent, engaging dramatic potboiler – but far more importantly it gives Scott the perfect peg upon which to hang another superlative cityscape. In short, Ridley Scott does ancient Rome.

Set-up, plot resolution, characters and even the leading man’s look are borrowed wholesale from The Fall Of The Roman Empire (Anthony Mann, 1964). Russell Crowe (looking remarkably like the original’s Stephen Boyd) plays Roman general Maximus, unhappy that the late Caesar Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) has been succeeded by his unsatisfactory son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Treachery is afoot as Maximus is sold into slavery as a gladiator to compete in Commodus’ lavish games at Rome’s amphitheatre.… Read the rest