JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4
March 24, 2023 / Cineplex Pictures
Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Lance Reddick, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, Ian McShane
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.
Written By Darren
Rating 4 out of 5
John Wick: Chapter 4 is never short on action, treating audiences to spectacular sequences that will make your jaw drop with their technical prowess over the film’s almost three hour run time, showcasing Keanu Reeves in his most infamous role to date, even if the film could have benefited from being slightly shorter at times.
Keanu Reeves is back as cinema’s most notorious hitman, once again delivering all the thrills and outstanding action sequences that have come to expect from this franchise. While I have not been a diehard fan of the series, I have enjoyed them overall and the fourth entry knows exactly what fans want from the film: action sequences they desire in spades. The result is a film that ensures that diehard fans of the series will be naming this film one of their favourites of the year, while eagerly anticipating the next entry in the franchise.
Having survived being shot by Winston and falling off the balcony of the Continental Hotel at the end of John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, the fourth entry picks up with John hunting down members of The High Table to earn his freedom. However, a powerful, new emissary for The High Table emerges, hell bent on wiping John Wick off the face of the Earth, setting John Wick on a crash course with him to fight for not only his freedom, but for his life on a globe trotting adventure.
Four films in, fans know that the John Wick films are not about the story. They are about action set pieces and world building, and this entry delivers both of those in abundance. While the second and third film introduced international aspects to the world, this film barely takes place in New York City and shows different settings to this world. We get glimpses of the assassin world in Japan, with a bombastic first act that primarily takes place in Osaka. The second act introduces glimpses of the seedy underworld in Berlin, further developing the crime families that make up the High Table that were introduced in the third film, while Paris takes center stage for the film’s thrilling final act. With each new location, the creative team expands the world with new characters and cultures, helping to build the rich mythology of the series that has fascinated audiences for years. The story for the film itself is very standard, sending John Wick on a globe-trotting adventure that takes him from point A to point B, then to point C once achieving his objective at point B. However, with the set pieces that play out at each location in the story, the story quickly fades to the back of your mind as the action explodes across the screen.
Without a doubt the highlight of the film are the phenomenal and adrenaline fueled action sequences. They have always been the selling point of the John Wick franchise, delivering R rated fight sequences that are brutal and jaw dropping, relying heavily on hand to hand combat rather than CGI driven moments. And the fourth film continues the excellence of the action scenes of the first three films, elevating them to a truly grand scale. The action sequences are epic, most notably the sequence at the Continental Hotel in Osaka, Japan, and the fight that occurs in the traffic circle surrounding the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, delivering breathtaking moments as John racks up an insane body count. The fight choreography is exceptional, capturing an intensity and brutality that propels John’s journey and the entire film. Visually, the cinematography within the scenes is outstanding, using darkness and light to create exciting visuals, on top of a phenomenal bird’s eye view perspective during the final act’s action packed extravaganza which is exhilarating to watch. Though, the run time does weigh down on the action sequences. Many of them run close to the forty minute mark, and while I am not opposed to long set pieces, some of the fight moves within these individual scenes get highly repetitive causing them to feel overly long at times. It’s not something that will bother die hard fans of the genre, as it is exactly what they want from the film, but for the more casual John Wick fan like myself, you may find yourself checking your watch at times wondering how long these set pieces can continue to go on for.
Performance wise, Reeves truly embodies the character of John Wick. Sure, some of his line delivery feels very rudimentary at times, it works well with the film’s over the top nature as grand soliloquies and delivery would feel out of place. Overall, Reeves is pitch perfect for what the role calls for, but it is the new coming members of the supporting cast who steal the show.
Donnie Yen is absolutely spectacular as Caine, an old friend of John’s who is hired by The High Table to eliminate John. There is a playfulness that Yen brings to the role which is magnetic, drawing you to his character every second he is onscreen that he blends with sorrow for his character’s predicament that makes you feel for him at every turn in the film. At the same time, Yen is an absolute beast in the action sequences, delivering some of the best moments of the entire film and solidifying his place in action cinema as one of its most exciting stars. Bill Skarsgård makes for a great villain, carrying an air of wickedness as he chews up every line of dialogue he has with an elegant and sinister undertone, even if his character is slightly underdeveloped. Hiroyuki Sanada is perfect for the role of Shimazu, bringing a stoic and grand air to the film that helps make the Osaka sequence one of the film’s most memorable, while Rina Sawayama is great as his daughter Akira, who I personally cannot wait to see more of in the franchise’s future. And I would be remiss not to mention Scott Adkins’s wild and highly entertaining turn as Killa. Adkins is unrecognizable under prosthetics and makeup, delivering a truly comedic and outrageous performance that makes for one of the film’s most memorable sequences, in addition to being a brilliant opponent for Reeves in their big fight. Returning for another installment is Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne and Lance Reddick, all of whom make memorable outings for their characters compared to previous films.
Instead of reinventing the wheel for the franchise, the latest entry in the John Wick series blows up the wheel with some of the most spectacular action sequences to have ever graced the big screen, resulting in an exhilarating film. Despite the film being slightly too long at times, the supporting cast of Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Hiroyuki Sanada and Scott Adkins light up the screen alongside Keanu Reeves, ensuring that John Wick: Chapter 4 is an adrenaline fueled ride from start to finish with jaw dropping action sequences that are guaranteed to thrill action junkies for almost three hours!