‘John Wick Chapter 4’ ups the ante
Let’s be honest. You’re not here for the story. All you need to know about a John Wick flick is whether he kills ‘em good. The fourth John Wick installment kills ‘em best.
For a franchise that hangs its blood-soaked hat on absurdist self-awareness of revenge flick tropes and massive gun-fu set pieces, you would think that the Wick films would’ve gone to the body-filled well one too many times.
With a spin-off film series in development, all the writing in blood is on the wall. We surely must’ve reached the John Wick saturation point, right?
Aside from a bit of a slow start and shaky exposition, once this film gets going, there is no stopping it. It will find you and kill you in a way you’ve never imagined.
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Written by: Shay Hatten, Michael Finch, Derek Kolstad (base on characters created by)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Bill Skarsgård, Donnie Yen, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne
Running time: 169 min
Chapter 4 opens with John excommunicado after the events of Chapter 3. Anyone in the assassin underworld who harbors him runs the risk of angering the High Table council and finding themselves excommunicado or worse. One of the highest ranking members of the council the Marquis de Gramont in Paris (Bill Skarsgård) has it out for Mr. Wick. To show he means business, he strips Winston (Ian McShane) of his management of The Continental New York and demolishes the building.
John realizes he has to lay low to spare his friends, so he takes refuge at The Continental Osaka. It does not go well for him, but for us it’s the action sequence that sets everything off. The Marquis keeps upping the bounty on John’s head, bringing every assassin out of the woodwork, and then hiring John’s old friend Caine (Donnie Yen) to take him out. As always, John is resolute that he will kill anyone and anything (except dogs) in his way if it means he can finally be free.
The crowd at the North American premiere at SXSW 2023 oohed and aahed at some of the kills. Raucous cheers echoed from the ceiling of The Paramount Theatre when the last henchman fell in each set piece.
Does it really matter why John Wick has to kill them all? No, not really. Does all of the self-serious artifice that is the world-building and charm of the Wick franchise matter? Sort of? What matters most is motherfuckers getting sliced with katanas, goons incinerated by Dragon’s Breath ammunition, and vehicular gunplay the Fast and Furious franchise couldn’t even dream up.
The hallmarks of a John Wick film are all there. Familiar faces like Charon (Lance Reddick RIP) and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) show up. There are glamorous international locales like Osaka, Paris, and Berlin. Plot-device technological marvels like bulletproof three-piece suits return. Horde-mode one versus a million combat with propulsive and humorous fight choreography buoy everything. There’s a good boy doggy. There’s a new underworld communication channel added to the lore.
Chapter 4 may not recapture the efficient magic of the first film, but it more than makes up for that in its commitment to the bit and its dedication to showing us stunts we haven’t seen before. If you are game for sitting through the longest John Wick film yet—169 minutes—this movie is game to make sure you leave the theater feeling good after witnessing 1,603,531 onscreen deaths.