John Wick: Chapter 4

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/13/23;
Lionsgate;
Action;
Box Office $187.07 million;
$29.96 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive strong violence and some language.
Stars Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Lance Reddick, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, Natalia Tena, Ian McShane.

The “John Wick” movies can always be depended upon for an intense thrill ride, and John Wick: Chapter 4 has no trouble sustaining a consistent pace of nearly non-stop action. That’s saying something, considering the film, at 169 minutes, or just shy of three hours, is more than 40 minutes longer than any previous “Wick” film.

On the other hand, that’s a lot of story from the previous films to pay off, and star Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski are damn well going to take the time it takes to bring the story to where they want it to go.

The plot is well engineered to facilitate the action. Wick (Reeves), having been excommunicated from the ultra-elite High Table after the events of the first three films, plots his revenge on the supposedly super-secret organization (which everyone and their mother seems connected to by this point in the series). The Table, in turn, has hired the Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) to eliminate Wick, which sets the tables for more hordes of assassins to futilely attack Wick in hopes of collecting a multi-million-dollar bounty.

To lead the attack, the Marquis sends Caine, played by Donnie Yen as another martial arts master who is blind, which will draw some comparisons to his character in Rogue One. Caine and Wick are old pals, but their grudging respect won’t stop them from eliminating the other for the sake of their mission.

For help, Wick turns to an old buddy in Japan, giving the first half of the film the flavor of a 1970s martial arts flick, with characters trading out guns for swords and arrows, while Wick is pretty handy with a set of nunchucks.

It’s basically like watching a hyperkinetic video game, as Wick must embark on side quests in order to set in place the pieces for a final confrontation with the main boss, the Marquis himself, in order to secure his ultimate freedom and some redemption for his allies.

But everything that came before pales in comparison to an extended action sequence in Paris in which Wick must evade wave after wave of assassins sent to thwart his final encounter with the Marquis. The action spills out into the streets, where the speeding cars themselves become weapons, and heads inside for an inventive bird’s eye view of the hunt through numerous rooms of a building.

The film is long and brutal, which should delight action fans to no end, as viewers will practically feel every blow along with Wick.

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The Blu-ray includes 11 featurettes for a total of 67 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, mostly dealing with the stunts, the action choreography, and the elaborate set designs, which fans should find interesting.

There are also two theatrical trailers and a three-minute action sequence from the upcoming prequel series “The Continental.”

 

Bullet Train

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 10/18/22;
Sony Pictures;
Action;
Box Office $103.1 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong and bloody violence, pervasive language, and brief sexuality.
Stars Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Benito A Martínez Ocasio, Sandra Bullock.

Director David Leitch’s latest hyperkinetic actioner is an amusing bit of fluff about a thief who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Brad Pitt plays said thief, code name Ladybug, who is tasked with stealing a briefcase full of cash being transported on one of Japan’s famed bullet trains. However, Ladybug is filling in for a criminal colleague who thought the assignment was beneath him, and quickly discovers the train is filled with mercenaries and assassins who take turns trying to kill each other with a wide array of weapons of choice, including a snake.

Caught up in the mayhem, Ladybug quickly realizes he’ll have to overcome more than a streak of bad luck in order to survive the trip.

As with former stuntman Leitch’s other directorial efforts, such as John Wick, Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, Bullet Train is loaded with colorful characters and even more colorful sets, punctuated by bright bursts of neon.

Based on a 2010 Japanese novel, Bullet Train should prove an entertaining-enough diversion for action fans.

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The primary extra on the Blu-ray is an audio commentary with Leitch, producer (and also Leitch’s wife) Kelly McCormick, and screenwriter Zak Olkewicz. It’s a good commentary about the challenges of filming an intense action movie during COVID, though the biggest insights are provided by the writer when he points out how much the final product either expanded upon or ignored what was actually written in the script.

The commentary is the only extra offered on the 4K disc in the combo pack. The rest of the extras are on the regular Blu-ray Disc, including three minutes of outtakes and bloopers, plus five short behind-the-scenes featurettes.

The six-minute “Mission Accomplished: Making of Bullet Train” details the origins of the film and the production in general; the five-minute “All Aboard the Pain Train: Stunts” is about staging action in a small space; the seven-minute “Trained Professionals: The Cast” delves into the performances, from the all-star cast to several cameos; the four-minute “Catch What You Missed: Easter Eggs,” which highlights some of the pop culture references and influences in the film; and four minutes of stunt pre-vis sequences.

Rounding out the disc is “Bullet Train Goes Off the Rails,” a four-and-a-half-minute montage of promotional spots featuring NBA players made to air during the NBA playoffs.

 

Mortal Kombat (2021)

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Action;
Box Office $42.2 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence and language throughout, and some crude reference.
Stars Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Max Huang, Tadanobu Asano, Chin Han, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada, Matilda Kimber, Laura Brent.

With its relentless action and brutal one-on-one fights, the Mortal Kombat remake should please fans of the video game franchise.

Mainstream audiences, on the other hand, may find the proceedings just another visual effects extravaganza with a convoluted plot that doesn’t do much to engage the viewer aside from the promise of more violence and over-the-top blood splatter.

The story involves the thunder god Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) assembling a team of heroes to defend Earthrealm in a tournament against the evil forces of Outworld, led by Shang Tsung (Chin Han), who needs one more victory to be allowed to conquer Earth.

At the center of the action is MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan), who is recruited to the battle because he was born with the dragon-shaped birthmark that marks potential warriors. He is a descendant of a ninja clan defeated in the 17th century by Sub-Zero, an Outworld warrior with ice powers.

So the movie maneuvers the various characters around to fight each other, with predictable results and the hint of more adventures to come in potential sequels.

The film is slickly produced and looks great with its elaborate costumes and set design, but it is also extremely loud.

The Blu-ray includes four deleted scenes that total about four minutes, plus several behind-the-scenes featurettes. There’s also a four-minute featurette about Easter eggs and other references to the game embedded in the film, which certainly makes an effort to include iconic catchphrases and signature fighting moves from the games.

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