Director: Chad Stahelski
Cast : Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Lance Reddick, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, Ian McShane
Run Time : 169 min
Opens : 23 March 2023
Rating : M18
In 2014, John Wick was released. It has had an undeniable impact on action movies, spawning a wave of imitators, some of which were made by the same production company, 87Eleven – everything from Atomic Blonde and Nobody to Jolt and Gunpowder Milkshake. Some of them were good fun, but now John Wick himself is back to remind everyone how it’s really done.
Following the events of the previous film, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) plans to take the fight to the High Table, the shadowy council that governs an international criminal network. The Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), a senior member of the High Table, hires Caine (Donnie Yen), a blind assassin and old friend of Wick’s, to kill Wick. Wick’s few remaining allies, including Winston (Ian McShane) and Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada), the managers of the Continental Hotel’s New York and Osaka locations respectively, are in danger. Wick’s only way out is to challenge the Marquis to a duel, and to do so, he needs to be accepted back into the Ruska Roma family that exiled him. The stage is set for a bloody confrontation at the Sacré-Cœur in Paris, if Wick can survive a night of endless attacks from every assassin in the city.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is virtuosic filmmaking. Director Chad Stahelski seems very serious about crafting a beautiful movie, with cinematography by Dan Laustsen helping him achieve that. The movie is endlessly stylish and gorgeously shot. Stunt choreographers and coordinators Scott Rogers, Jeremy Marinas, Koji Kawamoto, Laurent Demianoff and an army of stunt performers put together captivating, painful-looking fight sequences. From a fight between Wick and Caine in the Osaka Continental’s trophy room to a brawl in a German nightclub to a fight in the middle of traffic at the Arc de Triomphe roundabout, John Wick: Chapter 4 has no shortage of spectacular action. There’s a sequence shot top-down, dungeon crawl style, in which Wick goes from one room to the next neutralising his opponents. This is a movie that has the audacity to directly reference the famous matchstick-to-sunrise match cut from Lawrence of Arabia, and you can’t even get mad at it for that because of all the craftsmanship on show. Many moments get close to classic John Woo.
The movie’s structure is very repetitive: it’s a video game-style fetch quest, in which Wick meets with someone, has a tense conversation with them, then fights them, then meets someone else, talks to them, and then fights them, and so on. The upside to this is that the story is straightforward, and this movie achieves the right calibration of lore and action when the previous instalment was perhaps a bit too bogged down with the mythology. By this point in the series, audiences expect that Wick can take superhuman amounts of punishment and keep ticking, but this does somewhat diminish the stakes, knowing he can dust himself off after falling off a building and getting shot and stabbed.
Besides the action sequences, the thing John Wick: Chapter 4 does best is stack the cast with cool people. Every last person in the movie is cool. The returning cast members, including Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane and the late Lance Reddick, are all comforting presences and help maintain continuity in a series where characters drop in and out.
Every new addition to the cast fits well within the world, starting with Donnie Yen. The character is an antagonist, but he also has a palpable respect and affection for Wick, and would rather not be facing off against him. There’s also just a touch of mischief to him, and a moment when he swears in Cantonese had the theatre howling.
Bill Skarsgård chews the right amount of scenery as a petulant villain, but is never so whiny that he’s not also threatening.
Hiroyuki Sanada is as dependable a presence as ever, and singer Rina Sawayama, making her acting debut, complements him well as his character’s daughter.
Mr Nobody (Shamier Anderson), a bounty hunter hot on Wick’s trail, is in some ways the film’s weakest link. Anderson does the best he can with the material and is also teamed up with a ferocious yet adorable canine sidekick, but the character feels more disposable than the others.
Scott Adkins hams it up as German High Table member Killa, rendered unrecognisable thanks to prosthetic makeup. Clancy Brown doesn’t have any action, but as the Harbinger, a representative of the High Table, he is gravitas personified.
Summary: John Wick: Chapter 4 is virtuosic filmmaking. The action sequences are brilliant, as one expects from the series, but the overall style is captivating and the movie is always beautiful to look at, even in its most brutal moments. Keanu Reeves leads a cast that is stacked top to bottom with cool people, from Donnie Yen and Hiroyuki Sanada to Ian McShane and Clancy Brown. The movie’s structure can be repetitive, and the 169-minute runtime is a commitment, but John Wick: Chapter 4 delivers bang for your buck and more. Stick around for a post-credits scene.
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars