John Wick is still going through a lot of hardship. Although the titular hitman and his quest for canine-fueled vengeance have been introduced to us about ten years ago, the events of the last three films have all only occurred within the span of a little over two weeks. He has transformed from the largest (retired) boogeyman of the underworld to its largest prey in those two weeks. But if John is going to go out, he’s going to go out swinging for the fences; and in John Wick Chapter 4, he fulfills that goal and then some.
Shortly after the conclusion of Chapter 3, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is recuperating from his wounds and fighting the High Table, the gang that controls the whole underworld, alone. The pompous Frenchman, Marquis de Garmont (Bill Skarsgard), has been given unlimited resources by the Table as retaliation to hunt down Wick and punish anybody who has dared to assist him, including his closest associates Winston (Ian McShane) and Charon (Lance Reddick).
Together with an army of killers, the Marquis also forcibly recalls Caine, a blind assassin who is one of John’s oldest friends, from retirement (Donnie Yen). John discovers something that might ultimately release him from the Table’s hitlist for good as the bounty on his head rises and the number of his remaining pals shrinks. Yet in order to get there, he will have to confront numerous murderers from all over the world.
Chapter 4 is a very long movie, coming in at a colossal 2 hours and 49 minutes. Director Chad Stahelski pays blatant homage to Sergio Leone’s westerns and Lawrence of Arabia while also plainly embracing the franchise’s vast scope. Keanu Reeves’ outstanding portrayal of Wick is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s legendary Man With No Name, right down to how he gives John’s sparse dialogue tremendous weight. Despite its length, Chapter 4 never has the impression of dragging or slowing down merely for the purpose of it.
“…if John is gonna go out, he’s gonna go out swinging for the fences; and in John Wick: Chapter 4, he achieves that goal and then some.”
While it’s disappointing that we don’t get to spend much time with many of the returning characters, such as Winston, Charon, and the Bowery King (a scenery-chewing Laurence Fishburne), all the new characters are very much appreciated additions to the story. Veteran scene-stealer Hiroyuki Sanada and pop star Rina Sawayama are impressive in their brief appearance as a badass father/daughter duo who manage the Continental in Osaka, highly underrated action star Scott Adkins chews as much scenery as he can in his prosthetic-filled role as the Penguin-like mob boss Killa, and Shamier Anderson shines as The Tracker, a freelancer who plays temporary friend and bodyguard (and comes with his own skilled dog).
Donnie Yen, on the other hand, steals the movie from everyone with his nuanced performance. Between their efforts to kill one another, John and Caine converse about their similar lives and shared experiences, which adds a genuine feeling of sorrow to the series that wasn’t previously apparent.
“John Wick: Chapter 4 is the most exhausted I’ve been by an action movie since The Raid 2, and I truly mean that in the best way possible.”
Having said that, there is no doubt that Chapter 4 is jam-packed with action. Create the coolest action scene you’ve ever seen, and then top it with the one right after, it seems like Stahelski, Reeves, and the entire stunt squad lived by this motto. Early on, Reeves and Yen engage in a battle that alternates between sword and gun battles. Reeves and Atkins’ martial arts clash in a crowded club is another notable bout (where hilariously, everyone else in the club is still dancing despite the bodies falling near them). Each scene makes excellent use of the variety of locations, including some of the best battle choreography in the series, and is expertly shot using the series’ recognizable dark, neon colors and throbbing soundtrack.
The third act of Chapter 4 contains its genuine apex: a one-hour marathon of some of the craziest action set-pieces I’ve ever seen, all back-to-back. The closest thing we’ll get to a live-action version of Hotline Miami is when John is shooting down rooms full of foes in a tracking shot sequence while fighting in the middle of fast-moving traffic near the Arc de Triomphe. The majority of this review could be devoted to merely summarizing all that transpires in this gauntlet, but it is truly breathtaking. I spent the most of the time wondering how nobody got really hurt while I was documenting any of it.
Since The Raid 2, John Wick: Chapter 4 has left me feeling more worn out than any other action film. I mean that in the most positive manner conceivable. John Wick: Chapter 4 has the feel of a grand finale, even though it’s likely not the last we’ll see of the Wick-iverse (there’s still the Ballerina spin-off and a Continental prequel miniseries on the way). Amazingly, this franchise has gotten better with each new installment, and Stahelski and company have created an action masterpiece this time around by laying everything on the line. Well done, Mr. Wick.
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