"John Wick: Chapter 4" stars Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Lance Reddick, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, and Ian McShane. Released on March 24, 2023, the film has John Wick battling the High Table to earn his freedom.
The film is directed by Chad Stahelski, known for directing the previous three "John Wick" movies. It is the fourth installment in the "John Wick" franchise. You better have your thirst for adrenaline thrills at your disposal because the Baba Yaga is back once more to shed more blood from those who wronged him. Just a clear reminder that this all happened because someone had the nerve to kill his puppy in cold blood. That sick jerk. After that shocking conclusion of Wick's previous chapter, "Parabellum", many of us wondered how the legendary hitman would escape this troubling predicament, especially with the High Table now calling the shots. After a four-year wait in-between installments due to the pandemic and Keanu Reeves' commitment to the latest "Matrix" sequel, we finally got that answer with the newest action sequel that puts John Wick in the greatest fight of his life. So was this fourth chapter able to retain the action franchise's refreshing approach, or does it show that it's time for the hitman to retire? Let's find out.
The story occurs after the events of "Chapter 3". John Wick (Reeves) is preparing to exact revenge against the High Table while hiding underground with the Bowery King (Fishburne). After John kills the Elder (George Georgiou) in Morocco, the High Table, led by the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Skarsgård), its senior member, strikes back by stripping Winston (McShane) of his manager duties and destroying the New York Continental. Additionally, Vincent hires several assassins to hunt and kill John, including Caine (Yen), a retired assassin and John's old friend, and a bounty hunter named Mr. Nobody (Anderson). To earn his freedom, John must challenge Vincent to single combat while escaping from those who want him dead.
"John Wick" is an action franchise that finds a way to outdo its predecessors regarding its filmmaking and action aspects. The first film set a new standard of how the genre's represented with its storytelling, choreography, and technical qualities. As for its sequels, they became rare occurrences where each follow-up improves over its predecessor. Each sequel expands the unique noir underworld of assassins while raising the stakes for its violence and main character without making them too over-the-top or nonsensical. "Chapter 4" is tasked with continuing this impressive trend for the franchise's fans and action lovers, with its surprisingly lengthy runtime and sequel fatigue being its lethal opponents.
With "John Wick" serving as a stand-alone story for the main character, "John Wick: Chapter 2" started a larger narrative arc that continued with chapters three and four. That arc involves John coming out of retirement again to honor a marker, leading to him being "excommunicado". "Chapter 4" continues (and possibly concludes) this narrative arc with John making his stand against the High Table. It's a challenge that few sequels accomplished, let alone a fourth installment. Fortunately for me, this film managed to become one of them, with enough tension-filled action and engagement in its narrative to provide everything "John Wick" fans expected and maybe even more.
Amid the thrilling action scenes, the "John Wick" films usually deliver engaging stories that effectively take advantage of their revenge action cliches, especially the first film. These movies combine their narratives into a single, expansive novel depicting a former hitman's return to the life he walked away from after losing everything he held dear. Yes, that includes his puppy. "Chapter 4" continues this quest with John still facing the consequences of his actions while attempting to regain his freedom. What makes this story great is that, like the previous films, it never lost sight of the character's personal journey amid its violence and brutalities. We've been following John's arc since 2014, and the filmmakers understand that by delivering something worth cheering for regarding John's struggle, including the ending. I won't give away too much about what happened, but I will say it was a bold risk that paid off satisfactorily well.
Another element that remained intact is John himself, who remains one of the best modern action heroes in film history. One reason is that although he's a highly skilled hitman and assassin, John also has a physical and mental sense of vulnerability. He's a normal human being who seems like a badass, but he's actually a man shrouded in vengeance due to his peaceful life being shattered. Keanu Reeves's sublime performance showcases the actor's deep love for the character through his acting and stunts. I'm serious. He's just that good at manifesting this character.
Now, many of us are left concerned with its runtime, which is over two and a half hours long. Regarding the quality of the previous films, having Keanu Reeves beat up bad guys and travel the globe for close to three hours could wind up feeling more drawn out and dull. Well, I'm happy to say that that isn't the case. Yes, it's long, but it doesn't feel long. The movie benefited well from its consistent pacing, engaging character interactions, production designs, and even Chad Stahelski. With his majestic noir vision and approach to its action scenes, Chad Stahelski continues to prove himself to be one of the finest action directors to date. Additionally, his outstanding direction toward the Osaka Continental sequence shows that the film adaptation of "Ghost of Tsushima" is in good hands.
In addition to Reeves, the movie allowed the rest of the cast to have their chance at the spotlight, and they did not disappoint. Donnie Yen was one of the reasons I was excited for "Chapter 4", mainly due to his impressive filmography, including the "Ip Man" film series. Unsurprisingly, Yen delivered the goods yet again regarding his role as Caine. His performance was consistently enjoyable, and his fighting skills were just as stunning as I expected they would be. Bill Skarsgård also did very well with his performance as Vincent, whose role in the High Table posed a suitable threat to the main characters. However, my biggest surprise regarding the cast is Shamier Anderson as Mr. Nobody, a bounty hunter pursuing Wick, who had more great moments than I thought he would have. But, of course, I can't forget about the late Lance Reddick in one of his final roles, who's just as talented as always as Charon, the concierge of the New York Continental.
The "John Wick" films are always known for providing grounded yet enticing action sequences that don't stray too far into nonsensical schlock. The sequels had gone bigger with their set pieces and authentic violence without actually going big with their budget and R-rated violence. "John Wick: Chapter 4" is no different, with the action increasing the stakes for the characters and even its story. The result is another series of exhilarating thrill ballets filled with impressive choreography, stylistic noir visuals, and great tension. The cinematography by Dan Laustsen, who has worked on the franchise since "Chapter 2", continues to amaze me in capturing the stunning neon-noir-like frameworks of its action set pieces and backgrounds, especially the long single overshot take during the movie's third act.
Overall, "John Wick: Chapter 4" is another rare action follow-up that shoots past its sequel fatigue to deliver a satisfyingly gorgeous and immensely entertaining experience. Despite its lengthy runtime, the movie proves the franchise's worth with its exhilarating action and a respectable amount of emotion hidden within its brutal noir core. From its strong cast to the incredible stunt work onscreen, this is one of the best modern action movies I've seen and one of the best action sequels ever. Seeing how far this franchise has gone without losing a single hint of quality with each sequel is astounding. Instead of being pointless cash grabs, they are actual continuations that expand the assassin underworld while improving the elements that worked in the first film without going overboard with their blockbuster grandness. Hopefully, as time passes, more people will see the "John Wick" films as examples of what the action genre should resemble onscreen. Until then, let's continue celebrating Keanu Reeves's successful comeback with these crowning achievements.