RAY PRIDE ON "JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4"
At New City Film, Ray Pride reviews Chad Stahelski's John Wick: Chapter 4:
Dark times for John Wick: a dark palette that begins in teal and vertigris explores the expressive limits of widescreen frames and settings where decor is peeled away, a neutral backdrop where sumptuous settings are replaced by foreground frenzy. With unapologetic formalism, here’s a plenitude of bumptious bodily dispatch, geometric spatter and roseate headshots.
It’s heavy stuff: Keanu’s killer smile was left many killer confrontations ago. Wick’s weary and Reeves excels at the syllabification of single syllables, or sepulchral intonations sufficing as line readings. One of the longest lines almost requires fresh forms of annotation to capture the nuance Reeves can wreak from near-nonsense, “I’m, going, to, kill, them all.” (And the richly inhabited single-word sentences: “Pistols,” he says.)
Grace lies in the assembled teams’ assurance: the team onscreen and the team behind the camera. Hot lead, honor and haberdashery: style burns.
There is a passage a couple of hours in where the movie slows ever so slightly—dare it become boring?—but it is only in preparation for a set of deliriously extended long takes, drawing from the University of De Palma. Inside a dark, dirty chateau in some dark, dirty stretch of Paris, the camera observes from on high the first floor of the building, and goes berserk, at first suggestive of De Palma’s stately, deliberate speed of a God’s-eye shot in so many of his movies, such as “Snake Eyes” and “Femme Fatale,” but with the glib glide of a robot, as if from the flick of a wrist from a mechanical controller.
Yet almost immediately, its amok rapidity betrays a wry human hand with the explosive doings beneath the camera’s eye: concussive, incendiary detonations from a brute shotgun light up Wick’s ranks of featureless adversaries, furniture and wallpaper and devils burst into flame. The crane glides, sprawls, measures the space for what seems minutes on end, another stuntman detonates, the camera’s angel gaze charts another room, another, another functionary dispatched. The cumulative man-hours to realize this result must measure in the thousands.
Cinematographer Dan Laustsen is interviewed by The Wrap's Scott Mendelson:
There’s a sequence that is basically conceived as one take where it’s an overhead shot of John Wick going from room to room shooting people.
We shot it in a studio we built in Germany. It’s shot as one take with all the light coming from outside the set. It was one of those sequences where Chad said what he wanted to do and everyone said it was impossible. We did a spider cam shot and the visual effects department helped. It’s one crane shot and one spider cam shot where we are starting on the stairs and flying around.
How many tries did it take you?
We did eight or ten takes. The light must be outside the set. We see the whole set. That’s the challenge when your shots are wide and the entire set is in view.