John Wick Chapter 4 is out now, and I wanna talk about it. ‘Cause wow, what a movie! Read on for my thoughts…
John Wick Chapter 4 skips ahead from the twisty ending of part 3. But John’s situation remains the same: he’s excommunicado, the high council wants his head, and they’ve unleashed their most ruthless men to complete the job. John, meanwhile, aims to survive whilst he plots to secure his freedom from The Table once and for all…
Now that I write that out, I realize Chapter 4 is basically a re-tread of Chapter 3’s plot. But this one’s a hell of a lot better than that! Not to say Chapter 3 is bad by any stretch, but the film-makers really upped the ante this time.
John Wick Chapter 4 captivated me from its opening shot, where the booming of John’s fists against a training bag echoed in my theatre. The moment was badass, communicated appropriate context for John’s mindset before he spoke a word, and generally left me impressed with the sound-designers.
I want to harp on that last point for a moment. Because I don’t often give praise to sound-teams in these reviews. But the work this crew did was phenomenal! Every punch, gunshot, fall, and break satisfied my brain (and hit so hard I nearly felt the pain myself).
John Wick Chapter 4‘s first surprise reveal threw my plot expectations out the window. I was shocked and delighted that the writers didn’t waste time or pretend John COULDN’T do what he did in scene 1. The rest of the film is more paint-by-numbers, but it’s competent and dramatically satisfying.
I was impressed by this script’s deft handling of half a dozen character arcs. Some people might be put off by the film’s near 3 hour run-time, but rest assured every minute is used and paced well. They NEEDED the time to invest us in John Wick’s new supporting cast.
Of these, Caine is the coolest addition to John Wick’s lore. He parallels Wick’s story– from Chapter 2 specifically– only we see him as an antagonist. And who would be a more worthy rival for John Wick than the great Donnie Yen?!
I swear he’s a superhuman. The speed with which Yen moves mesmerizes me! Caine somehow makes combat look more effortless than John himself. All this to say I anxiously awaited Yen’s last encounter with Reeves. It was sure to be a spectacular sequence (and it was)!
He’s a great antagonist because he’s sympathetic. The Table threatens Caine’s daughter, and that’s the only motive he needs to kill John. Yet he and John have a history, which complicates his feelings. I don’t want to say I rooted for Caine AGAINST John, but I wanted him to succeed in his goals nonetheless.
Another stand-out was Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson). He’s a bounty hunter out to collect John Wick’s head. But he goes about it the most unique way I’ve ever seen! His vibe was excellent, Anderson’s delivery was endearing, and he’s got a dog. Nobody is basically young John Wick who’s still learning the ropes. His arc was unexpected yet dramatically appropriate.
Then there’s the villain of the piece: Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård). He compels us to hate him up top with a most heinous act, and only gets worse from there. The Marquis is ruthless, intimidating, and borderline disrespectful (a big no-no in the John Wick universe). But his bluster hides an arrogant coward who will send hundreds of underlings to their deaths for his own glory. He desperately wants to be the guy who finally kills Wick. Even the other badguys think the Marquis takes things too far!
There are too many talented cast members to discuss them all. Though I’ll give special mention to a few: Rina Sawayama, Ian McShane, and Laurence Fishburne.
Here’s the big question for John’s story in Chapter 4: Where does it end? He’s hunted members of the High Table for 3 films now. And they’ll never stop coming for him, no matter how many he kills. Besides this, he has no life to which he can peacefully return even IF he escapes the table. Because he’s called in all his favours, he has no family, and ruthless murder might just be his life’s calling.
John floundered through Chapters 2 and 3 without much of a purpose beyond “survive.” Now he’s fully focused and committed to his main goal: get out of the assassin business by whatever means necessary. And this focus makes for a simple, yet powerful narrative push.
John Wick Chapter 4 solidifies the series main theme: moving forward from your past. Is it even possible to do so? Or are you always who you were, despite your best efforts? John Wick Chapter 4 argues that, despite the odds and the challenges, your effort is worth the rewards– nay necessary for them. And that’s a message I can get behind. It’s all the more powerful after watching four whole films of John’s struggle to find peace.
John Wick Chapter 4‘s global action helps its scope to feel huge! We go from New York to Osaka to Berlin to Paris to the middle east. Each place maintains a unique vibe which adds variety to the film’s sequences. I especially loved the scenes in Paris!
The John Wick franchise handles comedy surprisingly well. And Chapter 4 continues their trend of mostly dry one-liners, grandiose personalities, and deadpan reactions. The jokes aren’t always overt– they’re just funny. Talented actors delivering this dialogue is the key. ‘Cause you’d probably just roll your eyes at many lines if actors of lower calibre said them.
That reminds me: I wanna double back a moment to reiterate that this script is well-written. Its dialogue is both thought-provoking and quotable. And that’s especially impressive considering how few conversations actually take place. Most of these characters prefer fighting to speaking (especially Wick, who primarily communicates through action and body language).
Now onto the action and stunts. What do you want me to say? John Wick 4 continues the franchise trend of… well, being exceptional.
Each sequence has a new gimmick to keep things fresh (nunchucks, swords, an incendiary weapon, etc); each character maintains a unique combat style; and each scene would be the best part of any other movie. The blocking, stunt-work, choreography and camera-operation are exceptional! I don’t have enough words for how awesome the action in this film is.
I’ve learned to appreciate the details in these films. So much thought and care goes in to everything from the lore, to the fights, to the character interactions (short on dialogue though they may be). You can enjoy the surface-level action and not be bothered with the rest. But there’s more layers here than meets the eye. Chad Stahelski’s film-making craft is incredible!
The John Wick crew has stepped up their game immensely over the years. I especially wish to credit Dan Laustsen’s cinematography work. Chapter 4 is the most visually stunning film in the franchise. And that’s saying something with a franchise so known for its visual flair.
My one big gripe with this film: John Wick’s suit (AKA his plot armor) is overpowered and kinda ridiculous. I don’t even care that it stops bullets; though I unsuspend my disbelief when John falls multiple stories multiple times and walks away unscathed. Still I can’t fault this movie for following through with a concept which got out of hand multiple instalments ago…
Otherwise, John Wick Chapter 4 is one of the best actions movies I’ve ever seen! It’s tense, investing, deeper than it needs to be, is full of great performances, and generally kicks ass.
John Wick Chapter 4 is one for action-lovers to Watch A.S.A.P!
IN-DEPTH ANALYSES OF THE ABOVE, AND MORE, ON THIS EPISODE OF CLOSE UP:
Is John Wick the harbinger for better action films, or will the genre remain medicore? What did you think of John Wick Chapter 4? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know.
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Till next time,