'John Wick: Chapter 4': A Stunning Action Epic
When I first saw John Wick back in 2014, I never would have imagined that it would have grown into the phenomenon that it has become. I have really enjoyed seeing the evolution of the series, from its humble beginnings as a surprise indie smash all the way to being one of the most universally beloved action franchises of all time. The impeccable fight choreography, fast-paced storytelling, and memorable characters are trademarks of the series, and each installment manages to be even bigger than the one before. After John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum was released, I began to wonder if the series had reached its peak. Parabellum is undoubtedly one of my favorite action films from the past decade, and I knew that any follow-up would have a lot to live up to. This brings us to John Wick: Chapter 4, the biggest film in the series to date. Clocking in at a staggering 169 minutes, this film dials everything that audiences love about the John Wick movies up to 11, and is yet another electrifying entry in the franchise.
Continuing the story that has been developing over the previous films, Chapter 4 sees John Wick (Keanu Reeves) still on the run with an ever-growing bounty on his head. This time, he has found a way that he can possibly defeat the criminal organization known as The High Table, and might finally gain his freedom. But in the process, he finds himself facing some new foes, and ends up fighting some of his most dangerous battles yet.
If there is any one defining component of any of the John Wick films, it's the incredible action setpieces that each film has. Each film manages to top itself in this department with each new entry, and Chapter 4 is no exception. I personally thought that this film wouldn't be able to beat Parabellum based on how amazing the action is in that film, but I think Chapter 4 might edge it out. With its extended runtime, the film allows the action to play out for as long as it needs to, which yields some of the best sequences of the franchise, if not the action genre, period. The fight choreography is top-notch as always, and it is absolutely exhilarating to watch. The way that these scenes are shot is also spectacular, and should be a lesson to any filmmaker on how to properly shoot action sequences. An early showdown that takes place at the Osaka Continental (a hotel chain in the series that serves as neutral ground for criminals) is very well-done, and features such a great blend of different fighting styles. Another that takes place about halfway through the film in a Berlin nightclub is also well-deployed. But it is the entire third act, which is largely one giant action sequence, that is the crown jewel of the film, and quite possibly, the franchise as a whole. I don't want to get into any specific details, as it is best experienced without spoilers, but what I will say is that it is some of the most impressive action filmmaking I have ever seen, and completely blew me away. Between the choreography, the camerawork (there is a oner during this sequence that floored me), the use of sound and music, and the stunt work, this section of the film has some of the best action I have ever seen in any movie.
Chad Stahelski has consistently proven himself as one of our best living action filmmakers, and this film further solidifies that. Stahelski has an uncanny ability for capturing action on film, and he is so innovative in how he does this. Other filmmakers have attempted to take some cues from him in their own films, but Stahelski proves that his style is not easily imitable. He has a singular way of bringing action to the screen, which is likely due to his extensive background in stunt work. While he has done an excellent job with each of the John Wick movies, Chapter 4 is arguably his magnum opus. This film allows him to operate on an epic scale, and he absolutely nails it. He doesn't waste a single moment, and he truly puts his all into this film.
If there is anything in the film that I have any nitpicks about, it would have to be its screenplay. It stretches some moments out a little, and it isn't quite as efficient in its storytelling as the previous films, but that said, it's still mostly solid. It introduces its new characters with ease, and it continues to evolve and build the story that has been developing over the course of the franchise beautifully. Other films that attempt to do some of the things that Chapter 4 is doing from a narrative standpoint can feel overwhelming or excessive, but this film balances them nicely, and these elements work far better than they ought to.
Of course, at the center of the entire film is John Wick himself. Keanu Reeves has made a huge comeback in recent years, largely due to the success of the John Wick movies. Reeves has shown that he is an action star over the years, and the first John Wick served as a great reminder of this. He has done great work in all of the Wick films so far, and this film might be his best turn in the role yet. He plays the mysteriousness of the character so well, but it is when we see the cracks in his facade that I find the most interesting. Reeves uses those moments as fuel for the fire in the film's action sequences, which gives him a little more depth. You really feel the subdued emotions of the character, and Reeves does a great job of balancing this with the cool, steely exterior of the character.
The supporting cast is always one of the strongest elements of the John Wick movies, and Chapter 4 assembles an exceptionally strong cast of characters that give the film some added personality. Mainstays of the franchise, such as Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, and the late Lance Reddick (RIP) are excellent as always, and are all so magnetic here. But it's the new additions to the world of John Wick that I really want to shout out. First and foremost, Donnie Yen is absolutely amazing as Caine, a blind assassin who is tasked with hunting John Wick down. Yen is a legend of martial arts, which makes him a perfect fit for the fight sequences. But Yen also excels outside of those sequences, and gives a great performance that might make him the MVP of the whole film. Bill Skarsgård is an interesting new addition as well, and carries himself with a pompous energy that contrasts well with the gritty violence we see on screen. I also enjoyed Scott Adkins's ridiculous, almost over-the-top performance, which is a rather small part in the grand scheme of the film, but he certainly makes his mark.
John Wick: Chapter 4 just might be the best film in the franchise, as well as one of the best action films of the past decade. It is a bold, extravagant, and incredibly frenetic movie that builds so perfectly off its predecessors, and makes for one of the most exciting cinematic experiences that I have had in a long time. It is an amazing spectacle that builds and builds over its runtime, all leading up to an absolutely legendary third act. This definitely deserves to be seen on the big screen, as it is a stunning technical achievement on every level. This film reaffirms my belief that the John Wick series is one of the best action franchises of all-time, and this film itself might be the best action film of the past several years. This is definitely a film not to be missed, especially for fans of the franchise, and proves that no one is making action movies like Chad Stahelski and the rest of the John Wick crew.