The iconic, trendsetting action franchise takes a victory lap with its biggest and boldest chapter yet
The first John Wick film was a landmark moment for the action genre. There’s no underselling the impact it continues to have on movies thanks to its expertly choreographed gunplay and stunts, not to mention the rise of its directors Chad Stahelski (who has continued to direct every sequel) and David Leitch (who went to direct Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Hobbs & Shaw, and last year’s Bullet Train). That original 2014 film also, of course, helped revitalize the star power of Keanu Reeves and has pushed the conversation surrounding further recognition for stunts and stunt performers.
It’s amazing that it almost never came to theaters at all, having originally been doomed to VOD until Lionsgate scooped it up and released it on the big screen with only two months notice. Like the best underdog stories when it comes to movies, John Wick became a hit thanks to strong word of mouth from audiences. Now, almost a decade later, it’s hard to find a film (whether its straight action or a superhero movie) that hasn’t been influenced by it.
With John Wick: Chapter 4, the team takes a massive victory lap and goes bigger than ever before. That’s no easy feat for a franchise that’s attempted to top itself with each subsequent film, but Chapter 4 celebrates everything that’s made these movies work so well for this long. From a shootout / nunchaku / sword fight in Osaka (where Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama and Donnie Yen steal the show) to a tense card game / trippy waterfall nightclub brawl in Berlin (where Wick takes on Scott Adkins, who’s transformed under a mile of makeup and prosthetics) to a jaw-dropping overindulgent finale set in Paris (where Wick appears to kill roughly two-thirds of the city’s population), this is easily the biggest action movie of the year, if not the decade.
Stahelski directs once again and, along with writers Shay Hatten and Michael Finch, keeps things short and simple with Chapter 4‘s story. That may sound funny for a nearly three-hour long movie that’s come a long way from the original tale of a man avenging his dog, but this latest entry in the franchise basically boils down to: John Wick (Reeves) is looking to kill the new head of the High Table (played by Bill Skarsgård, who sneaks in one good Pennywise look) and has to fight waves of unlucky assassins along the way. Queue some of the most insane action sequences you’ll ever see.
Chapter 4 maintains the series’ emphasis on long takes and painstakingly choreographed, “grounded” action that showcases the stunt and effects crew. Things began to get a little silly in Chapter 3 – Parebellum as far as the franchise’s rule-bound worldbuilding and Wick’s survivability and unlimited endurance goes, and Chapter 4 is all of that tenfold. But it’s hard to be bothered when the big screen bloodshed on display just gets more astoundingly impressive by the hour. In fact, you may come to love the goofier aspects of the John Wick world, whether it’s the deep and booming laugh of the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) or the endless string of poetic quotes and quips from Winston Scott (Ian McShane) or the imaginative ways that Wick just won’t die.
Donnie Yen dominates every scene as the latest in Wick’s long line of “old friends”, as does a new dangerous character known as The Tracker AKA Mr. Nobody (played by Shamier Anderson). Even Clancy Brown shows up in this! Look, if you’ve dug this franchise so far, Chapter 4 is the dream version of how far it could conceivably go. Each new John Wick movie has begged the question: How are they going to top this? But this time around, it really just doesn’t seem possible anymore. Chapter 4 is the exact kind of feat that the movies were made for. See it on the biggest screen possible.
‘John Wick: Chapter 4‘ is currently playing in theaters.