Review: 'John Wick 4' a poetic, imperfect final chapter that goes down swinging for the fences
"John Wick" was the unlikeliest of box office successes when it hit theaters nearly a decade ago (2014). Since then, the franchise has become a beloved IP for Lionsgate, grossing nearly 600 million at the box office. "John Wick: Chapter 2" (2017) expanded the world of John Wick, with secret societies of assassins and some mythology to go along with its non-stop action. "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parrabellum" (2019) wasn't quite as interesting, but it delved into this universe even further.
Each chapter has nearly doubled the gross of the previous installment, and that brings us to the highly-anticipated "John Wick: Chapter 4," a movie that would feel like a fitting end to the saga, if we didn't already know that they're planning a "John Wick: Chapter 5" as well as a spin-off film, "Ballerina," and a live-action series based on the hitman hotel and safe-haven, "The Continental."
Amazingly, "John Wick: Chapter 4" in absolute ground-breaking achievement in action cinema, the most confident and gloriously-rendered installment yet. It has many, many problems, but the good outweighs the bad - perhaps just barely - and if you've followed John Wick this far, there's no way that you'll feel disappointed by his latest adventure.
The invincible assassin, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is still on the run from the mysterious hierarchy known at "The Table." It's leader is the ruthless and menacing businessman known as The Marquis (Bill Skarsgard), and with limitless resources at his disposal, it's only a matter of time before Wick's time runs out.
The Marquis closes down the The Continental, which causes its former head honcho, Winston (Ian McShane) and his loyal concierge, Charon (the late, great Lance Reddick, who died shockingly at the age of 60 on March 17) to go into self-preservation mode. A reluctant, bad-ass new hitman - who also happens to be blind - by the name of Caine (the always great Donnie Yen) is brought in to hunt down Wick, and another new assassin who simply goes by "Nobody" (Shamier Anderson) comes into the picture...eager for the price on Wick's head to get to a reasonable margin before he actively joins the pursuit. Nobody has a loyal companion, a killer dog that defends and attacks Nobody on command, and anybody familiar with the John Wick films knows how important these canine companions can be.
Also left scrambling from the events of the last film is Wick's ally, Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his daughter, Akira (Rina Sawayama). Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), Wick's sage-like mentor, is also weaved throughout the film, but for no apparent reason other than to let Fishburne show his excitement for existing inside of yet another Reeves-led fantasy franchise.
At two hours and 49 minutes long, "John Wick: Chapter 4" has an epic quality to it, but it's first hour has some pacing issues. It's second hour is a complete waste and could have been cut altogether, which would have made this a tight, grandiose and more impactful movie. That middle section introduces an implausible, over-acting villain named "Killa" (Scott Adkins, wearing a fat suit and caked with bad prosthetics and costuming), who feels lifted directly out of a different film universe altogether, one where the heroes wear capes. Killa in fact is so laughable, I thought he might have been pulled from the "Dick Tracy" rogue gallery, complete with his purple suit and gold teeth.
RELATED: Read My Review of "John Wick"
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The character and scene is so jarring because until it, the entirety of the John Wick universe had seemed to exist in some kind of hyper-reality. Of course there is a think fantasy element to it, a surrealism that we accept in order to be able to watch one stunning stunt-sequence after another. And while much of the "Killa" scene looked phenomenal - a fight takes place in a nightclub with numerous waterfalls and flashing lights cascading all around - it has no place in the story or in this cinematic universe. It legitimately could have been cut, and maybe the set pieces could have been used elsewhere, and nobody would have noticed.
Did I mention just how utterly AMAZING this film looks? No joke - I cannot think of another movie I have EVER seen with better production design, for example. The movie this time around feels more poetic, more interested in matching stunning fight sequences with pounding music and increasingly ambitious scenarios, than it is going for any sort of emotional payoff, or depth.
Taking nothing away from the stellar achievements in these technical areas, "John Wick: Chapter 4" does suffer from some of the same problems previous chapters have, namely, the fast-paced gun battles and hand-to-hand combat sequences do get repetitive as the movie goes along. There are - seemingly - only about 100 different ways that you can shoot a guy at point-blank, and this movie shows all 100, thousands of times. Only "Hot Shots: Part Deux" may have a higher body count than "John Wick: Chapter 4." It does feel like a video game in that sense, where nameless, faceless masses of bad guys flood our screen, and we know that game is designed for our good guy to overcome it all, somehow, someway.
I did love the addition of the Donnie Yen and Shamier Anderson characters, and I also appreciated that they give Ian McShane a bit more to chew on than in past chapters. "John Wick: Chapter 4" throws so much at the wall, that some it was bound not to stick, but the stuff that does creates an incredible mosaic of blood, bullets and mayhem, the likes - and quantity - of which no other action movie has ever came close to.
This might be the new crowning achievement of stunt-work and action imagery, but it's also a cautionary tale as to the pitfalls of excess.
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller.
Run Time: 2 hours 49 minutes.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgard, Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Lance Reddick, Ian McShane.
Directed by Chad Stahelski ("John Wick," "John Wick: Chapter 2," "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum").
"John Wick: Chapter 4" is in theaters on Friday, March 24th, 2023.
3/24/2023 06:22:15 pm
I have not seen any of the other movies but am definitely open to checking then out! I am glad the 4th was good!
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