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Review: John Wick: Chapter 4

March 24, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Keanu Reeves returns to the titular role of John Wick in John Wick: Chapter 4, which doubles as the best entry yet in this already very good action movie franchise.

This fourth instalment puts Reeves’ former assassin Wick, who is now a marked man, at the centre of a globe-trotting action movie as he tries to finally take down the international consortium of assassins known as The High Table, and it’s interesting to witness the operatic grandeur of what this franchise has become.

The first film from 2014 worked as a gnarly and fairly straight-forward little revenge thriller about a man taking on the Russian mobsters who took his car and killed his dog. But the pieces were always there to lay the groundwork for something even bigger involving the world of the Continental and The High Table, and John Wick: Chapter 4 fully delivers on this promise, as it builds off of parts 2 and 3.

At 169 minutes, this fourth film is over an hour longer than the first instalment, with the focus being on staging a variety of phenomenal-looking extended action set-pieces that truly take the series to another level. The appeal of John Wick: Chapter 4 lies not so much in the story itself (it is very much a direct continuation of previous chapters in that regard), but in the way that returning director Chad Stahelski allows the action sequences to breathe, fully settling into being something akin to The Raid movies or Mad Max: Fury Road as pure action spectacle.

Wick is given a variety of new foes, including the addition of martial arts star Donnie Yen in an incredible supporting role as a blind assassin, and Shamier Anderson as a young tracker who is strategically waiting for the price on John Wick’s head to increase before taking him out. The film embraces slight elements of camp with its main bad guy the Marquis, who is played by Bill Skarsgård and is essentially an old-school Bond villain, and Scott Adkins appears in a scenery-chewing extended cameo. Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane and the late Lance Reddick also reprise their roles.

The film does feel a bit long with its nearly three hour running time, and some of the more exposition-heavy scenes before and between the action do drag the pacing down slightly. The result is a movie that doesn’t reinvent the John Wick formula, but has simply perfected it, understanding that we mainly come to these movies to see Reeves kick ass in a variety of neon-bathed action scenes set to techno music that look cool as hell. In this regard, John Wick: Chapter 4 delivers on every imaginable level.

The film embraces being set in a pseudo-serious version of the real world where international assassins roam the streets of New York and other cities trying to do each other in. As usual, the action unfolds on a variety of eye-popping, neon-coloured sets, with the film’s incredible production design captured by Dan Laustsen’s excellent cinematography.

Laustsen’s camera smoothly follows the action choreography, turning the near-relentless carnage on display into a sort of dance, as Reeves lays waste to baddies with guns and fists against these staggering, beautifully lit backdrops. This includes an early set-piece at the Osaka Continental in Japan, and a jaw-dropping shootout showing the action from above, tracking the characters moving between rooms as if they are in a diorama.

Stahelski and company take what could have been a simplistic chase picture and elevate it to cinematic artistry, including a literal match cut paying tribute to Lawrence of Arabia, and the Spaghetti Western-inspired final showdown. If you choose to look for it, there is also an underlying, Eastern-influenced philosophy to these movies about cycles of violence continuing to repeat themselves, with Reeves’ Wick showing a few moments of vulnerability that make the payoff to this one surprisingly bittersweet.

The whole thing builds to an incredible final act launched by an insane chase through the streets of Paris set to the song choices of a radio DJ, with the extended sequence continuing to top itself as we question how many times Wick can get hit by cars and fall down the stairs. Pound for pound, this is the best film in the series, offering an electric, visually stunning, and at times darkly beautiful action epic.

John Wick: Chapter 4 opens exclusively in theatres on March 24th.

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