Review: In terms of contemporary action movies, John Wick: Chapter 4 (and the entire John Wick franchise, honestly) has separated itself from the pack. Each detail, idea, and set piece is perfectly crafted to build out a world that feels so fully realized. Somehow, Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski continue to find new ways to keep the franchise fresh.
A few months back, I felt that I may have reached nirvana during a screening of a certain movie at a local theater. Sure, maybe a bit hyperbolic, but also quite accurate of how I felt seeing three hours of nonstop, pedal to the metal action that truly transformed what I thought that genre could conceive of. Obviously, I’m talking about John Wick: Chapter 4, which I just recently bared witness to for a second time and can finally confirm is a certified work of art.
At the time of first laying eyes on this movie, I planned to write a full length review tackling what I thought was an incredibly engaging three hours of spitfire gun-fu, but I wasn’t sure I was fully prepared to break down what I also thought was such an engaging and viscerally overwhelming experience – so I laid off. But now I’m ready to navigate this expansive, breakneck iteration of what may be the best action franchise of this century.
John Wick: Chapter 4 starts soon after the events that close out Parabellum. After faking his own death and crawling back to underground New York, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is training to hit back at those that wronged him. From the over-ruling Elder to those that sit at the High Table, nobody is safe from the indestructible hitman once nicknamed Baba Yaga – not even the mercenary Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) crowned by the High Table to take down the legend himself.
As John Wick: Chapter 4 moves along, we see the price increase immensely to take down the journeyman responsible for causing chaos in the streets of the incredibly large underworld of assassins, from New York to Osaka to London. It becomes clear that the only way for John Wick to gain his freedom and to clear his name is by winning a duel – one that could become costly for everyone involved.
The John Wick franchise has always been remarkable for their level of worldbuilding. What started as a slick, insular bit of clever storytelling in the first movie has quickly become one of the more expansive worlds in action genre filmmaking, especially as of late. The world of interconnected hotels and systems for hitmen has always been fascinating, and it’s been equally fun to see director Chad Stahelski and executive producer David Leitch continue to inspire and redefine what’s possible in this world.
And so while the first few entries continued to build on the idea of a growing, immensely populated world of trained hitmen, no movie before John Wick: Chapter 4 has built out the lore and mythology quite like this. There are elongated scenes used just to push forward the idea of this final duel that John Wick must take part in that I was captivated in from beginning to end.
There are also a handful of new characters, each with their own tone and set of motivations. Donnie Yen stands out whenever he’s on screen as the blind assassin Caine, who’s inability to see certainly does not detract from his ability to kill anyone with perfect eyesight. Shamier Anderson also makes an appearance as another budding professional in this world as he flip-flops between trustworthy and adversary depending on who offers him the best payday.
The collection of new faces helps add to the plethora of fighting styles and interesting characters. The burden on Keanu Reeves to provide the stunt work is significantly lightened because many of them are dedicated to the surrounding cast members, an each of them excel with what they’re given. Perhaps the pinnacle example of this is Caine moving through the Osaka kitchens in the first leg of this movie.
Thematically, John Wick: Chapter 4 gets a bit deeper and is able to pull back a few more layers than the previous films. The movie digs heavily into the question of John Wick being a hero knowing that many of his friends have died as a result of his run from danger. At times, the movie hints at him standing down knowing that it could save those he’s close to so they don’t meet the demise of the people he’s lost in the past.
It’s all handled in a sincere and mannered way as the tone in John Wick: Chapter 4 feels similarly dreary and melancholy like the first few. John Wick is a reserved, unwilling assassin wanting to get out of the game any way possible, and the franchise continues to build on the notion that he’s only committing certain actions to get his version of a peaceful life – even though that may be impossible to return to.
As is the case with every John Wick movie, Chapter 4 is incredibly shot and technically sound. Upon second viewing, I was floored just how well lit so many of the action sequences are, from John Wick gaining revenge for his family members in the middle of a rave to the impeccable overhead one-shot in the third act (you’ll certainly know what I’m talking about when you see it). Every action sequence and idea is carefully planned out, and I’m not sure I’ve seen a movie in this lane with so many blossoming visual ideas. The set pieces are so meticulously planned out.
John Wick: Chapter 4 feels like such a great sendoff for a franchise that never had a miss, which makes me so skeptical of the greenlit fifth installment rumored to be coming down the road, but I’ll surely give it a shot given what I thought was one of the best installments yet.
There are action movies, and then there is John Wick. To say that these movies are generic and action fluff feels dismissive given what usually comes from this genre year in and year out. Everyone else is playing catch-up to what might be the best franchise operating right now.
Where to stream John Wick: Chapter 4: VOD
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John Wick: Chapter 4 Cast and Credits
Keanu Reeves as John Wick
Donnie Yen as Caine
Bill Skarsgård as Marquis
Ian McShane as Winston
Laurence Fishburne as Bowery King
Lance Reddick as Charon
Shamier Anderson as Tracker
Director: Chad Stahelski
Cinematography: Dan Laustsen
Editor: Nathan Orloff
John Wick: Chapter 4 movie on Letterboxd
John Wick: Chapter 4 movie on IMDb