Review: John Wick – Chapter 4

John Wick Chapter 4 poster

Despite the franchise rapidly running out of road, this entry was a solid effort!

After being betrayed by those closest to him, John Wick has recuperated and is out on the warpath to bring down every member of The High Table in hopes of earning his freedom. But those he targets have everyone gunning for him…

Director Chad Stahelski, Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne and Lance Reddick return for a perhaps final instalment of the John Wick series. More incredible gun and close-quarters-combat action, dazzling, seedy night-time visuals, a thumping good soundtrack, and a barely held together narrative are returning in style.

It is a little hard to imagine that 2014’s John Wick would explode into such a sensation. A simple premise of “man kills other man’s dog without realizing that man is the most dangerous assassin alive” has spiralled into a lengthy montage of visceral takedowns and gun-play. Most of which, genuinely, feels like it works solely because of its lead star, good guy Keanu Reeves.

Keanu Reeves is at it again
Someone’s got a Wick on their bonnet

Imagine anyone else in the lead role of this franchise. Jason Statham? Vin Diesel? Jared Leto?? No. Keanu makes this franchise because his public reception is one of a wholesome, kind-hearted man who wouldn’t hurt a soul, with no ego to bloat or ride with. This makes the John Wick films extremely watchable in a fanciful way; they are ridiculous. But they are a lot of fun as well.
In Chapter 4, we see a tired John Wick as he rapidly runs out of allies in his attempts to cut the head off the snake that is the underground assassin syndicate that employs him. It takes him to Japan and France, and there will be a lot of gun fights and bulletproof three-piece suits.

First of all, the positives. This film is markedly better than the third film, which felt a little awkward with its instatement of heavy plotting and webs of narrative; here we are more adjusted to it. The action is still spectacular, with a lot of focus on close-combat grapples and takedowns. A great variety of combat styles and actors too, from lithe, nimble fighters to huge juggernauts. Someone in the music department discovered dark synth, and it is wonderful in this movie’s intense night-time battle sequences.

There is also a sequence, about three quarters of the way through the film, that had me sitting up and slowly grinning with glee. Between this film and the last one, a video game was made called John Wick: Hex. While this isn’t necessary to view the film even remotely, there is a sequence that channels the game’s visuals: during an intense gun battle through an abandoned house, the camera peels up into a top-down perspective. We watch enemies and Wick shooting at each other, moving through rooms, taking up tactical positions, the camera freely moving over walls in what must be a massive set. It was really impressive to watch.

We also have martial arts actor Donnie Yen (Ip Man and Rogue One) as an adversary for Wick, and of course, this is an exceptional pairing. The two have immediate chemistry as two assassins with history. He is playing a blind man again, so if you wanted more of Chirrut from Rogue One, this is probably your only option. Just expect a lot more stabbing. It is remarkable that these two are both nearly 60 years old and doing these scenes.

Donnie Yen looking sharp
Donnie Yen looking sharp

There is also a fitting tribute to the late Lance Reddick, who died within the last month, who played Charon. The film has incredible impact with his character, and makes the cast and crew’s feelings all the more heartfelt.

There’s also a great scene involving stairs.

Of course, there are issues with the film. The franchise as a whole feels like it peaked with Chapter 2. Which was the series equivalent to Aliens. Like the first movie, but more. Chapters 3 and 4 have been mostly repeating the formula: Wick running through environments as everyone tries to kill him. And why not, it is a working formula? However, some times it feels a little… repetitive, or redundant. Is this random thug going to kill Wick?? Of course not. Is Donnie Yen going to die mid-way through the film? Of course not.
Not that we should want rug-pulls or subversion. But after so many “near-misses”, it becomes a little samey.
A lot of the people trying to kill John Wick nowadays seem to have Stormtrooper aim as well. Wow. Can’t hit the broadside of a barn.

Also Shamier Anderson’s character, a self-styled “Mr Nobody”, was very odd. He is tracking Wick exceptionally well, better than anyone. He wants the reward money, but never takes the shot when he has it. His character is helping Wick more than anything. Yet the resolution and perspective of the character is left hanging.
Also, the maddening frequency of these movies having foreign characters speaking English. The John Wick movies are usually good at having subtitles for non-English characters, but here we have Japanese characters speaking in private to each other… in English. Or, when in a state of emotional distress or devastation… cry out in English. It is annoying.

But, the John Wick series has been a lot of fun at the cinema. It is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys action and thrills without any redundancies, product placements, general Hollywood production trappings. Chapter 4 is an excellent movie and most of the complaints are fairly nitpicky by this point in proceedings.

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