John Wick: Chapter 4 sees the titular character (Keanu Reeves) as an unstoppable force ready to battle every mercenary who crosses his path. If they are a trained killer working for The High Table, they want a piece of Wick. The same is true of Wick. After Winston’s (Ian McShane) betrayal in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Wick is ready to destroy those in charge. This is no longer an action movie about one man seeking vengeance for the death of his puppy. This is a war movie.
Director (and former stuntman) Chad Stahelski crafted John Wick: Chapter 4 as if he is being forced into retirement. If this franchise were a firework show on the 4th of July, the first three films would be the slow explosive build-up to Chapter 4’s wondrous ballistic finale. The stakes are higher, the action scenes are more extended and more elaborate, and the filmmaking prowess has now graduated to beast mode.
[Warning: Mild spoilers for John Wick: Chapter 4 are discussed below!]
John Wick: Chapter 4 – The Story
The fourth entry wastes zero time placing us into the Wick warfare. As we are reintroduced to our anti-hero, we get the sense John Wick has been recovering since the events of the third film. Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) has been provided a safe harbor as Wick trains for his resurgence. Soon after, John seeks out a certain individual of merit in his particular profession. In killing said individual, John sends a message to everyone to come and get him, if they dare.
Thus enters a new antagonist named Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard), a high official of The High Table who arrives to end Wick once and for all. His character is cold, and arrogant, and has an endless supply of cash, which he uses to continually raise the price for Wick’s dead corpse. Every assassin, mercenary, and generic bad guy now wants a piece of the fortune, including a new threat who refers to himself as “Nobody” (Shamier Anderson). And Mr. Nobody has a loyal canine companion who is well-trained in the art of feasting on specific appendages.
Marquis also recruits the assistance of Caine (Donnie Yen), a formidable blind assassin who is imprisoned to servitude by Marquis because of a problematic past. Hunting John Wick is the only way Caine can escape the fate of The High Table who has threatened to kill his daughter.
Caine is methodical, skilled in combat to an impressive extreme, and just may be the closest equal we have seen to John Wick’s deadly knack for taking down his enemy. Donnie Yen’s role of Caine is an absolute show-stealer. The character development is detailed, giving him believable assistive devices to target surrounding enemies. Plus, as a writer with a disability, seeing a strong representation of the demographic on-screen, making Keanu Reeves sweat, was truly a great experience.
An action-packed festival of light, sound, and glorious action
As the war between John Wick and The High Table ramps up, the film becomes a symphony of colorful light. Each fight scene artfully splashes across the screen with vibrant colorful temperatures of endless variety. It makes the non-stop violence feel extraordinarily flashy and eye-popping.
Additionally, Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard’s score pulsates with electronic frenzy and bass thumps to the point that even The Matrix should be envious. The combination feels like attending a rave concert with gunfire and fistfights.
The action choreography is some of the best seen in the franchise. Staging a fight is not easy much less one that has Keanu Reeves facing this many opponents at once. It is very reminiscent of The Raid. There are sequences that feel everlasting spanning twenty minutes at times. And yet, the viewer will not want them to end.
Cinematographer Dan Lausten (The Shape of Water, John Wick 2 and 3) executes incredible coverage of the action while simultaneously leaving room for experimentation with how the action is filmed. One scene, in particular, provides an inspired perspective from a birds-eye-view of a shootout inside a building. The sequence is a mouth-watering gunfight progressing from room to chaotic room.
John Wick: Chapter 4 has minimal dialogue and increased mythology
John Wick: Chapter 4 comfortably further expands the mythology and universe given by its first three films. The script written by Shay Hatten and Michael Finch explores more of the underworld society of killers, explaining more traditions and rules amongst the twelve families. The film is mostly action but thanks to its insane 169-minute runtime, there is room for exploration of the criminal culture of The High Table’s hitman network, including a radio DJ who acts as a communicator to find intended targets.
This is also the quietest John Wick persona of all four films. The film is full of grandiloquent conversations as characters such as Winston discuss philosophies on death and old expressions of said topic. However, Keanu Reeves’s performance of John Wick is more of a quiet gunslinger in this film. He only responds in small doses of dialogue and oftentimes offers simple one-word responses. It’s a safe bet that Reeves has less than 50 words in the entire movie
Wealth as a background character
More than ever before, money and power are their own character in John Wick: Chapter 4. Everything feels larger than life, as it would under the company culture of The High Table’s umbrella. There is a scene where Winston is walking through a vast art gallery and as the camera tracks his movement, in the background passes by the most exquisite gigantic paintings.
The same can be said for the sets and choices of locations. Scenes are filmed in lavish rooms that almost feel royal in stature. Bill Skarsgard’s introduction takes place in an office that has a window bigger than most IMAX screens. It’s these small nuances that breathe life into the underworld of The High Table and make it feel like an impossible power to overcome.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is 169 minutes of pure action insanity
John Wick: Chapter 4 is overcharged to the max with everything fans will want from the franchise. It’s almost 3 hours of nothing but excessive amounts of action in the best way. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of car crashes, stabbings, gunshot wounds, bruises, and free falls that no one should survive. Seriously, John Wick should have been in a wheelchair by the second hour of this movie.
Moreso, it’s the craftsmanship on display that heightens this above the usual standard Michael Bay affair. Any filmmaker can make a fight scene, a shootout, or make things explode on the big screen. Not all directors can make it look this visually spectacular. Especially, from viewing the cinematography alone. There is hesitation to label this with a hyperbolic descriptor as “one of the best-produced action films,” but viewers can guarantee the conversation will take place.
My rating for the film:
★★★★★ / ♥♥♥♥
John Wick: Chapter 4 hits theaters on March 24, 2023! Are you excited to see Keanu Reeves return as John Wick? Let us know on social media!