Synopsis – John Wick (Keanu Reeves) uncovers a path to defeating the High Table. But before he can earn his freedom, Wick must face off against a new enemy with powerful alliances across the globe and forces that turn old friends into foes.
My Take – Released almost a decade ago, director Chad Stahelski struck gold with his 2014 surprise hit John Wick, which not only plunged Keanu Reeves back into the spotlight but also reinvigorated the genre, by setting a standard of what action thriller should look like. Since then, the series has become a juggernaut franchise that just keeps getting better and better with each installment.
Thanks to his expert knowledge of the technical aspects of shooting action, Stahelski and franchise creator Derek Kolstad have been able to deliver expertly choreographed, shot, and edited action films that are now the go to as examples of great action film making.
And yet, despite being on entry number four, a position where sequels usually tend to see things just getting redone, director Stahelski does the unthinkable and outdoes himself by taking a 169 minute run time and still making it feel shorter. Anchored by an exciting cast of characters, this one is a combat magnum opus that embraces the chaos, style and relentlessness that made its predecessors so popular, pushing viewers to their limits by its gorgeously hyper violent approach.
Here, the action sequences are taken to new heights and balanced with more emotional threads and tethers than any of the previous films. It’s brighter, it’s faster, more colorful, and more lethal. While every installment of this series has been superbly entertaining, this particular installment feels like it’s tackling more than that and truly brings the narrative to a new level. Though everything we have come to know and love is here, but with an infusion of creativity like we haven’t seen from the franchise yet.
Admittedly, the story does leave a bit to be desired, but the minor complaints about these kinds of things pale in comparison to what we get, a relentless sensory experience. Rest assured, this one is easily the best in the series and possibly one of the best action thrillers of all time.
Taking place right after the events of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019), the story once again follows John Wick (Keanu Reeves), the rogue hit man, who is ready to exact revenge against the High Table, for condemning his life and forcing him to be on the run. Hiding underground with the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), the price tag for his assassination has only continued to rise, especially after he killed the Elder (George Georgiou), the one who sits above the Table, in Morocco.
In response, the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), a member of the High Table, strips Winston Scott (Ian McShane), the manager of the New York Continental of his title, and kills his concierge, Charon (Lance Reddick).
But when John uncovers a path to finally defeat the High Table, he travels New York to Japan to Berlin and then to Paris, all the while encountering some of the most deadliest assassins in various settings, particularly Caine (Donnie Yen), a deadly blind assassin and an old friend of Wick, who has been forced out of retirement to ensure the safety of his daughter, and Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson), an expert tracker, who wants all the bounty from himself and his dog.
Acting as a fittingly flamboyant and fast-paced franchise finale that is bound to whet our appetite for the spinoffs that are reportedly in the offing, here, Chad Stahelski has truly directed an action film that’ll be remembered for decades, his direction in both the action and more dramatic scenes are all brilliant. There’s so many fight sequences in this film, small like big, all directed and shot brilliantly.
Written by Shay Hatten and Michael Finch, the fourth installment outstrips anything that has gone before and we aren’t talking just length here. The film hits the ground running and never slows down. Probably because there is an assuredness and control to this chapter that means that, despite the blatant extravagance, the film never becomes overwhelming.
Just when you fear it might, a fight will be punctuated with a slapstick joke or brutal kill to show that you’re in the right hands. The film expands our view of the John Wick universe. It just gives us more locations, more characters, more fights, more stunts. It builds off the previous films in a natural way, which makes it easy to believe the new stuff has existed the entire time. Some of this is actual new stuff, like characters.
Two of the biggest additions are Caine and Shimazu, two assassins who have a deep and complicated history with John. In the past, they trained and fought together, as close as friends can be in the profession. Now that John has made himself the number one enemy of The High Table, they’ve become reluctant allies and enemies.
The conflict between their responsibilities and their respect for each other plays out perfectly on screen, not to mention the legendary fighting skills brought by Donnie Yen and Hiroyuki Sanada. Covering four continents, we get fights on a massive set of stairs, fights in the middle of traffic, at one of the coolest looking hotels ever shown on screen, and so on. The fighting, of course, is exceptional, and it brings nun chucks, dogs, throwing stars, swords, guns, and so much more. It’s everything a series fan could want and, because these films are so technically proficient, you never feel like you’re missing any of the action.
Possibly the most creative choice is my favorite scene, one that combines a visually fantastic weapon with a shot choice that is unusual for action films of this nature, but the combination of these two pushes the scene into maybe one of action film’s greatest scenes. The elaborate and visceral set designs are without a doubt the film’s crowning achievement.
Lavish and rich with detail, they put Wick in elegant and high-tech rooms, ornate buildings, rousing nightclubs, and most memorably, a long flight of stairs and heavily trafficked streets where gut-wrenching, head-popping fighting sequences ensue.
Especially impressive is the wonderfully written climax. A superb final act that is potent and smart. Stahelski, who has helmed all four films of the franchise, knows the dynamics inside out. He makes the most of the resources at his disposal and then some. For lovers of action flicks, this is a true-blue bonanza.
Performance wise, Keanu Reeves has now become synonymous with the titular character and continues to hold his best throughout. He is ably supported by Donnie Yen, who particularly demonstrates, once again, that he is a legend in this industry with several great fights of his own, Lauren Fishburne and Ian McShane, who particularly add humor to the most darkest situations. Bill Skarsgård too brings in an impressive turn, holding his own against Keanu Reeves.
In other roles, Shamier Anderson, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, Hiroyuki Sanada, Clancy Brown, Marko Zaror, Natalia Tena, and Lance Reddick deliver strong turns. On the whole, ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ is a solid electrifying entertainer that is anchored by some of the most visceral, expertly choreographed action sequences ever made.
Directed – Chad Stahelski
Starring – Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Laurence Fishburne
Rated – R
Run Time – 169 minutes