Film Review: John Wick: Chapter 4
John Wick: Chapter 4
Director: Chad Stahelski
Thunder Road Films/97eleven Productions
In Theaters: 03.24
Few franchises embody the term “guilty pleasure” more perfectly than John Wick. The guilt comes from violence that is pushed to shocking extremes, and the pleasure comes from action staged with phenomenal creativity and precision. John Wick: Chapter 4, the supposed final installment, ranks among the most skillfully executed gun ballet movies ever made.
When we last left our hero, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), he had been left for dead by the all-powerful guild of assassins and criminals to which he’s bound, called The High Table. John is determined to get his revenge and release himself from his obligation to the organization in order to live out the remainder of his life in solitude. John must execute a circuitous and, at times, consensical plan, do battle with a blind assassin named Caine (Donnie Yen, Ip Man, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and face the ruthless Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård, It), a powerful leading member of the High Table with a special interest in seeing John permanently retired. If John wins, he walks off into the sunset. If he loses … you get the idea.
These movies are never about plot despite being stuffed with convoluted machinations and intrigue. They’re all about setting the stage for kick-ass action, and nobody does that better than stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski. While there is far too much time spent on set up, John Wick: Chapter 4 comes through with pulse-pounding, adrenaline-fueled thrills and intricately devised sequences that are equal parts Bruce Lee, John Woo and Buster Keaton.
The internet hype on this one has been considerable, with buzz from early viewers calling it “the greatest action movie ever made.” I won’t go quite that far, though there are at least three major, extended sequences that rank among the most flawless fights ever put on film, including an outrageous kung fu night battle that has John dodging in and out of traffic in Paris—on foot, no less. Following that scene is the funniest extended sequence in the Wick series. Suffice to say that the bigger they are, the harder and longer they fall.
Reeves is in top form, bringing back his particular blend of stoicism and pained, human frailty that makes John Wick surpass even The Matrix’s Neo as the signature role of his career. The actor’s impenetrable mask of mystery never fully lets us in, yet he wears his heavy heart on his sleeve. Even if we don’t truly know John, we get him; we feel for him, we love him, we are him. That’s a crucial element to the success of these ultra-bloody, Wile E. Coyote–esque cartoons.
Yen is a great addition in a ludicrously delightful role, and Shamier Anderson (Wynonna Earl, Invasion) as a roguishly charming, dog-loving American assassin called Mr. Nobody might be even better. If they made a spinoff with his character, I’d rush out to see it. Ian McShane and the late Lance Reddick do their best work to date as inside members of The High Table. Laurence Fishburne is extremely underused as The Bowery King, though it’s always good to see him together with Reeves. If there’s a weak link, it’s Skarsgård and his silly, faux French accent, though he’s good enough at playing a smarmy little twerp that it’s easy to root against him.
John Wick: Chapter 4 doesn’t need to be three hours long, and that may hurt it as a repeat viewing movie. If you don’t mind the body count or the nearly constant gunfire, it’s riotously fun, turn-of-your-brain entertainment and a satisfying closing chapter to one of the goofiest and least pretentious surprise hits of the century so far. Let’s hope that Reeves and Stahelski don’t change their minds on this being the last chapter, as it would be a refreshing change of pace worthy of the Wick name to see a franchise actually go out on a high note. –Patrick Gibbs
Read more reviews of Keanu Reeves movies:
Film Review: The Matrix Resurrections
Film Review: Bill & Ted Face the Music
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