Film Review: John Wick: Chapter 4

John Wick: Chapter 4 is probably the best entry yet in the series; an almost arrogantly excessive exercise in violence, that would feel absurd if it didn’t work so damn well.

The details of the plot don’t really matter. If you are here for High Table/Continental lore, there is some of that (and most of it laid out in the opening act), but once this film gets going in Osaka, it doesn’t really stop. John Wick is a marked man and he ends up having to murder countless individuals to wipe his slate clean. That’s all you need to know! Oh, and that those fancy suits are bullet proof. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the mayhem.

And mayhem this film has in spades. Chad Stahelski’s action set pieces in this film are long and gorgeously shot by Dan Laustsen, with the film basically broken up into three chunks after an opening act that serves mostly as a prologue for everyone’s motivation in this film. Osaka sees an extended siege and escape of the local continental, Berlin sees John reclaim a seat at his family’s table, while Paris is in a sprint (that lasts thirty minutes?) to get to the film’s comparatively stayed final showdown. Every sequence is sort of its own little short adventure and isn’t afraid to luxuriate in extended shots and extended fight scenes, without ever feeling like it is wasting your time.

The stunt team is unreal on this thing, top to bottom, with ebbs and flow in the choreography to go along with every changing scenario and settings throughout each section of the film. The opening of the film before Osaka is a tad slow and feels like the one section of the film that could be tightened up, but the film earns your patience as it does not restrain itself going forward. It actually seems sort of aware that the 3rd chapter (Parabellum) might have come out a little too hot (knife fight!), but this film finds some pathos and stakes setting to get you through. This is the most Continental heavy portion of the film, so if you like that stuff, you’ll be fine!

The Berlin sequence is the weakest section of the big three chunks, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work pretty wonderfully. The fight scene plays out in a club (of course) and feels like the section most indebted to what came before it, rather than pushing things forward with something new. That said, the action is long and satisfying, it just isn’t as original as the two sequences it’s sandwiched between. Scott Adkins is a cartoon character as this section’s bad guy, tip toeing this thing to the edge of parody, but it’s ultimately a fun angle to add to the proceedings to make this potentially samey section stand out a bit from its predecessors.

If I was going to knock the Osaka sequence for anything, it’s that it feels like it is setting up a forthcoming spin-off film (or two) as much as it’s really motivating this story, but there is a lot of background storytelling through fighting for the film’s new big antagonist, Donnie Yen’s Caine! Yen is just having a blast here, so much so that he almost breaks the 4th wall of the film. He is having so much fun in this franchise it almost feels like he knows it. This sequence has a little bit of everything and all of it is really damn good. Hiroyuki Sanada and Rina Sawayama walk into this world as smoothly as Yen during this Osaka Continental siege, and they all feel like they have been running around just off screen in the previous three films.

The stand out sequence of the film is the finale across Paris, which might win just based on sheer volume of action. Car fu, check. Fighting in the middle of traffic, ten minutes of it. Stairway fight, yep! Stairway fight, again, you betcha! John going room to room and murdering people with an incendiary shotgun that might be the best action sequence put on film this century, mmhmm. All of this is capped off with a great final sequence to this film, and the four film arc or redemption that has been set in motion since John killed that one guy in the first film. You know the guy.

While Keanu is the glue of this franchise, and is excellent as always here, you can tell this franchise feels like one of the easiest to spin out and explore all of the other corners only alluded to over these four films. Does John Wick become the first film listed in Keanu’s obituary, it’s got a fighting chance against The Matrix franchise at this point, as he now has another four film series that feels like only he is capable of being the main guy in. All of the other returning faces come in and do what they’ve done best, while Bill Skarsgard steps in and becomes an over the top asshole that you just want to root against.

John Wick: Chapter 4 will most likely go down as the best in the franchise so far, but I still feel like this premise could be taken to an even higher level; not that I’m complaining about what we’ve gotten so far.

Have Something to Say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s