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John Wick: Chapter 4 Review

March 24, 2023 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
John Wick: Chapter 4 Photo Credit: Murray Close/Lionsgate
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John Wick: Chapter 4 Review  

Directed By: Chad Stahelski
Written By: Shay Hatten, Michael Finch, and Derek Kolstad
Runtime: 169 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong violence throughout, some language, and brief nudity.

Keanu Reeves – John Wick
Donnie Yen – Caine
Bill Skarsgård – Marquis Vincent de Gramont
Ian McShane – Winston
Laurence Fishburne – The Bowery King
Hiroyuki Sanada – Shimazu
Rina Sawayama – Akira
Shamier Anderson – Tracker
Scott Adkins – Killa
Natalia Tena – Katia
Clancy Brown – Harbinger
Lance Reddick – Charon

The saga of the world’s greatest assassin John Wick reaches its epic conclusion in John Wick: Chapter 4. What began as a tight, lean action-thriller in 2014 evolved into an epic, globe-trotting, blood-soaked saga, the “Baba Yaga” John Wick, leaving behind countless bodies in his wake on multiple continents. Picking up sometime after John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, the eponymous Wick (Reeves) is now fully healed and ready to take down The Table to achieve his freedom, but the task is easier said than done.

Unfortunately for John, his actions in the previous films had far-reaching consequences. The Table has enabled high-ranking member Maquis de Gramont (Skarsgård) to clean up the Wick mess and close the book on the aging assassin for good. That includes excommunicating Wick’s friends and known associates, such as Continental Hotel manager Winston (Ian McShane). The Marquis de Gramont coerces the services of one of Wick’s old friends, Caine (Yen), into action to take Wick out. With few friends and resources left, John is running out of options to obtain his freedom, which is a difficult task.

While the movie begins with Wick starting his war against the Table, Chapter 4 pulls back on that scenario by instead asserting Marquis de Gramont as the central villain. An all-out war with the Table probably would have taken at least three more movies, but since Chapter 4 puts things into wrap-up mode, the story makes a deliberate pivot away from that narrative choice.

Another notable aspect of Chapter 4 is its length, which runs a little under three hours. The film is long, and director Chad Stahelski throws everything and the kitchen sink at John Wick en route to his goal. At the same time, the length is understandable due to the nature of the story. The issue comes when the story fails to grasp some of the globe-trotting sequences. One major sequence showcases the Osaka branch of the Continental, managed by another old friend of Wick, Shimazu (Sanada). While Shimazu is an interesting character, the plot does not justify Wick’s presence in Japan. The entire Osaka sequence is impressive, and it has stunning action throughout. However, there is not enough justification for why the sequence has to happen other than its importance to the plot. It’s a perfunctory sequence. The unneeded bloat is the biggest detriment to the viewing experience.

While the movie is long and action-filled, the plot easily could have been streamlined and tightened up to make the pacing a little less deliberate, but that is the main problem with Chapter 4. Stahelski stages multiple setpieces and action scenes throughout the film, coupled with majestic cinematography by Dan Laustsen. Coming from a stunt and martial arts background, Stahelski understands how to shoot action and choreograph big stunt sequences. The action itself takes center stage. The fights have very few cuts to obscure what is happening. The coup de grace scene is a shootout in a derelict building in the third act, which has an extended overhead view of the action as the mayhem unfolds. Fans who go to John Wick for the action will not be disappointed. The dynamic lighting and elaborate setpieces push the heightened reality of the world of John Wick, which looks like an adult graphic novel that came to life.

At 58 years old, Reeves is incredibly spry for his age. Not only that, he is visibly performing many of his stunts as the camera rarely cuts away from him throughout the film. While Reeves as Wick does appear unrealistically superhuman throughout Chapter 4, that is because he is driven by his singular purpose and unleashes everything he has left to achieve his goal.

While Reeves is undoubtedly impressive in this franchise, Donnie Yen might be better. Yen is easily the best addition to the series in Chapter 4 as the blind assassin, Caine. Yen’s trademark charisma shines in every scene, and he immaculately incorporates his blindness into the fight choreography. Yen’s Caine steals every scene he appears in throughout Chapter 4, and he has one of the more emotionally rewarding character arcs. John is a former brother-in-arms, but he’s coerced into action due to Marquis de Gramont’s treachery.

When John has to schlep to Berlin to make amends, action movie veteran Scott Adkins also gets a fun entertaining sequence as a massively rotund, yet still incredibly formidable, gangster named Killa. Adkins looks unrecognizable under heavy prosthetics and makeup, yet his amazing stuntwork still shines through the role.

Some of the more interesting characters who were introduced in Parabellum are sadly absent from Chapter 4, such as The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), The Director (Anjelica Huston), and The Elder (Saïd Taghmaoui) are nowhere to be found. The Elder is only mentioned in passing and is unceremoniously written out. That said, veterans such as Clancy Brown, Natalia Tena, and Hiroyuki Sanada are welcome additions to the lineup, and they all do fine work with what they are given.

Sadly, Lance Reddick passed away right before the film’s premiere. Besides Reeves and McShane, he’s appeared in every franchise installment. While Charon is not a central role, Reddick’s presence elevates wherever he appears, and that continues to be the case here.

As good as the action is throughout John Wick: Chapter 4 it’s not without its issues. Sometimes, the choreography gets a bit repetitive, especially when there are trained killers, supposedly among the best in the field, who are shooting at their quarry at point-blank range and not hitting a single thing in front of them. These henchmen have even worse aim than stormtroopers. Also, the synthetic CG bloodshed becomes rather noticeable at points. It’s no substitute for practical blood squids and spatter. Nonetheless, the action scenes are copious and nonstop throughout Chapter 4.

John Wick: Chapter 4 brings a strong sense of finality and closure to the John Wick saga, although there are some bumps along the way, and the bait and switch with the Table is disappointing. At the same time, this is as good a stopping point as any for Wick’s story, even though Lionsgate has designs for the franchise beyond John Wick. How those spinoffs pay off later remains to be seen, but John Wick was quite the journey for the reformed assassin forced back into battle.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Despite a bloated, overlong plot John Wick: Chapter 4 delivers the final blowoff and burst of adrenaline for the saga of Baba Yaga. Longtime fans will not be disappointed as Keanu Reeves leaves it all on the table for Wick's final stand. Audiences are also advised to stay through the credits.