- Terrific action
- Great gun choreography
- Great characters
- Nice pacing
- Long runtime
- Suspension of disbelief
Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski aim for the impossible with an extended runtime, rife with high stakes and jaw-dropping action sequences.
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.
A loud, echoing punch followed by a powerful soliloquy, brilliantly delivered by none other than thespian Laurence Fishburne, is a hell of a way to kick off the latest entry in the John Wick franchise. “John Wick: Chapter 4” spares no bones getting to the point – and the consequences – of where this story continues past the cliffhanger of “Parabellum”. Wick, now hiding underground with The Bower King (Laurence Fishburne), has to make his elusive, gun-toting chase yet again as he has to evade the High Table and their order to have the laconic hitman excommunicated once and for all. On the other side of the game, Winston (Ian McShane) and Charon (Lance Reddick – R.I.P.) scramble to pick up the pieces after the events of the last film, under the ire of the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), a powerful member of the High Table.
One of the many strengths that “Chapter 4” has is being a terrific culmination of everything that made the first three films great. The action setpiecing is more exquisite, more detailed and never has been more exhilarating. Also, Keanu Reeves has never been more laconic in his whole career, there isn’t that much spoken dialogue from “Baba Yaga” in this chapter as this is a man that wants to survive and end this whole world-traveling, cat-and-mouse game once and for all. Another great factor carried over from the other three films are the terrific supporting characters. Martial arts superstar Donnie Yen joins the fun as blind High Table assassin Caine, a sleek, badass gunman that has some of the most visually-striking action scenes. Shamier Anderson also throws his hat in as Mr. Nobody, a scruffy, ambitious bounty hunter that takes down obstacles and enemies alongside his trusty canine. Scott Adkins also has a terrific, fun turn as Killa Harken, a heavy-set gangster that is a terrific combination of Collin Farrell’s Penguin and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin. Yen and Anderson complement Reeves well as their insertion into some of the film’s terrific action sequences doubles the fun and the adrenaline. I don’t know what it is about him but Bill Skarsgård just excels at playing an antagonist. Marquis Vincent de Gramont makes it known from his first scene that he is a character to be both feared and hated. His swift, cruel resolve matched with his despicable arrogance makes him the best villain in the John Wick franchise. McShane and Fishburne are as great as ever and Hiroyuki Sanada has a terrific action presence as Shimazu Koji, an old friend of Wick and Caine.
In spite of its long runtime (which we’ll get into later), the setpiecing of its action sequences is what gives “Chapter 4” its coveted spot of being one of the greatest action films of all time. When someone fonds over why they love films like “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Raid”, they may say it’s the choreography and set up of action sequences. Wick has both in spades. Building off the legacy of creating the best “Gun-fu” franchise out there, director Chad Stahelski doubles-down on the gun-slinging and sword-wielding, creating some of the most expertly crafted action sequences I’ve ever seen. One sequence in particular involves Wick eluding and killing opposing forces while in oncoming traffic. The result: Men (including Wick himself) bouncing on and off cars as they swerve and crash in a roundabout and Wick running and evading his captors like he’s in a live, dangerous game of vertical whac-a-mole (trust me – it needs to be seen to be believed as to how jaw-dropping this sequence is). Another terrific sequence is a great crane shot (likely inspired by top-down games like Grand Theft Auto 1) where our laconic hero literally shoots “fire bullets” at his captors, room to room, trying his damnest to get to his next destination. John Woo would be (and probably is) proud. In addition to the terrific action set-ups, there is also a few humorous gags including a long fall down a flight of stairs, a running joke of a dog biting dudes’ crouches off and a vicious side-antagonist that just won’t die.
The most polarizing thing (if anything) about “Chapter 4” is its excessive length. It’s not like this film doesn’t demand our attention from the start (again, a loud punch and Fishburne delivering a fire speech – doesn’t get more attention-grabbing than that) but there can be a lull in one or two extended action sequences. The film gives Wick fans what they ask for (and more) but two many crashes, back-breaking and long falls may require the audience to have more suspension of disbelief than usual in questioning just how Wick survives all this shit. But then again, the Wick films are not your usual hitman tales and this is not your usual picture length. It makes sense in what could be the last (maybe?) John Wick film that director Stahelski would want to throw all he has at the wall and watch it stick. Taking influences from films like “Laurence of Arabia”, “Kill Bill” and “Lady Snowblood”, Stahelski and Reeves, for better or worse, are using every bit of 169 minutes to deliver the most jam-packed, biggest action film they can deliver. And for that, I’ll take a long runtime.
There’s a lot to love in “Chapter 4” and a lot of time to love it. Everything is pushed to the max – the action, the characters, Keanu being more “Keanu” – and what a better chance to put it all out there. The runtime may be trying for some but I would akin a film like this to a gun-toting “Lord of the Rings”. With its amount of entertainment value (and even some slight pathos), the runtime can be forgiven. Stahelski and Reeves have done it again and have brought us another great chapter in the action-packed life of the great, laconic hitman.