John Wick: Chapter 4

  • 25 Mar - 31 Mar, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Four years after John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, director Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves are back in theatres with "John Wick: Chapter 4," a film that was supposed to be released nearly two years ago. The wait was well worth it. Stahelski and writers Shay Hatten and Michael Finch have combined the mythology-heavy approach of the previous chapters with the streamlined action of the first film, resulting in a final hour that ranks among the genre's best.

John Wick: Chapter 4 begins with its title character (Reeves) on the run once more, this time from the villainous Powers That Be known as the High Table. The series' main antagonist is the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard), a High Table leader who keeps raising the bounty on Wick's head while also cleaning up the messes left behind, including potentially eliminating Winston Scott (Ian McShane) and his part of this nefarious organisation. Wick travels to Japan in the opening scenes, where he seeks assistance from Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada), the head of the Osaka Continental, and runs into Caine, a blind High Table assassin (the badass Donnie Yen).

When Wick needs a new bulletproof suit, Laurence Fishburne appears as Wick's Q, and Shamier Anderson plays an assassin who appears to be waiting for the price on Wick's head to reach the right level for him to get his payday. Despite the film's epic runtime (169 minutes), the plot here feels more focused than in the previous two films. This is John Wick. Here are the villains. Go!

And off they go. Stahelski and his team choreograph action sequences in a way that feels both urgent and artistically choreographed. The action sequences in "John Wick: Chapter 4" are long battles, gun-fu shoot-outs between John and dozens of people who underestimate him, but they have enough momentum to not drag on too long.

They also have excellently defined stakes. At one point in the film, John and an adversary agree on the parameters of a battle, which include time, weapons, and variables. But this is true of all the major action scenes, in which we clearly understand what John must do and who he must encounter in order to "complete the level." Because the objectives are simple, complex choreography is possible. We know what needs to happen for John to continue moving forward as he has since the first film's beginning. So much modern action is cluttered with characters or muddled goals, but the "Wick" films have such brilliant clarity of intent that they can have fun within those simple constructs.

The action choreography here can be simply breathtaking. I liked how often the world revolved around Wick and his unfortunate adversaries. The stunt work is incredible, and the shoot-outs, once again, have the feel of dance choreography rather than the bland plot-pushing of so many studio films. Wick is full of grace and ingenuity whenever he goes to work.

Of course, a great cast also helps. Reeves may have fewer lines in this film than in any other in the series, but he completely sells Wick's commitment while also imbuing him with emotional exhaustion that adds weight to this chapter. The vengeful Wick of the first film is not the same as the survivor of three films later, and Reeves knows exactly what this character requires. Many actors would add unnecessary flourishes to a character who is already so well-known, but Reeves is astute in streamlining his performance to fit the film around him.

It also allows a few supporters, particularly Yen and Anderson, to shine in different performance registers. The legendary Yen is fantastic in this game, not only in combat but also in the moments in between. Most people who know Donnie Yen won't be surprised to learn that he fits in perfectly here, but he's even better than you think. Anderson also gives a fun performance as a man who appears to be a mercenary looking for the right price, but fans of the series will notice right away that this badass has a dog, and in this universe, puppies and people who love them are valued.

Wick's only minor flaw here is a bit of narrative self-indulgence. There are a few scenes, particularly early on, where it feels like a beat is going on a little too long, and I believe there's a slightly tighter (if 150 minutes can be considered tight) version of this film that's simply perfect.