By Santiago Brion | April 3, 2023
"John Wick: Chapter 4" is the sequel to the John Wick franchise starring Keanu Reeves as a former hitman forced back into the underworld of hitmen and assassins after his house is burglarized and his dog gets killed. Over the course of the franchise, John kills a hitman of the High Table, a council of hitmen and assassins, making him “excommunicado.” His services are no longer required from The Continental, a safe haven for hitmen, and is being hunted by the hitmen organization.
The John Wick movies are well-known for their memorable opening sequences. What makes them memorable is Keanu Reeves’ star power and how the action kicks in immediately.
Expectations were very high with Chapter 4, considering that Chapter 3: Parabellum blew me away with its action sequences. Chapter 4 pumps the movie up to an 11 with its action, set pieces, story and three-dimensional characters. While the John Wick narrative from the first film was simple and grounded, it unexpectedly expanded on the world of assassins (a world where law enforcement is nearly nonexistent) and its grand production design. From the neon streets of New York City, the New York Continental to the Osaka streets that give off a cyberpunk vibe, the John Wick franchise continues to prove that it’s here to stay.
The John Wick movies are well-known for their memorable opening sequences. What makes them memorable is Keanu Reeves’ starpower and how the action kicks in immediately.
Chapter 4 begins with a bang, as Laurence Fishburne’s character, The Bowery King, considered the leader of the underworld of homeless people who help wanted criminals, monologues in a booming voice in a sewer tunnel. John slowly punches a piece of wood and turns to pose. The scene quickly cuts to John riding on horseback in the Arabian deserts who goes to kill “The Elder”, the one who sits above the high table. He hopes to be granted freedom, but a chain of events including the destruction of The New York Continental causes the High Table to send their people to Osaka, Japan where John goes to seek refuge.
Hot on John Wick’s tail is Caine, a blind assassin played by Donnie Yen, who is also John’s friend, and Nobody, a hitman who’s accompanied by his dog and is also a “tracker”. There is an interesting dynamic between both characters as John and Caine both left their professional line of work behind in order to be with their loved ones.
The Osaka Continental sequence is a highlight of the movie in which the tension of the high table representatives arriving at the hotel is executed brilliantly. The manager, Shimazu, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, and the concierge and his daughter, Akira, played by renowned English-Japanese singer, Rina Sawayama, bring a lot of depth to their scenes. The stand-off between two iconic Asian actors, Donnie and Sanada, is perfectly executed in gunplay and katana fights, incredible stunt work, and gorgeous cinematography.
The entire movie has one spectacular sequence after another and never stops until the final minutes. One non-action sequence that stood out was when John and The Marquis meet in Paris and negotiate the terms of their duel. Following the duel decision, John is hunted down by French criminals after his appearance and bounty was announced on the radio, a scene inspired by the classic movie, “The Warriors” released in 1979.
Keanu Reeves proves once again that he is the greatest action star ever, even better than Tom Cruise, at 60 years old.
Bill Skarsgard as The Marquis excels at playing the cheeky, classy, and evil villain with super outfit choices to match. Scott Adkins as Killa did well with the limited screen time that he was given, and Shamier Anderson gives one of the best breakout performances of the year with his role as “Nobody”, playing a hitman whose sole purpose is kill while taking care of his dog. Rina, Donnie, and Shamier’s specific roles definitely have spin-off potential, with Akira appearing in the post-credits scene giving the franchise more room to branch out into more stories.
BIG SPOILERS AHEAD…
The duel scene at the end will go down as one of the best third acts in an action movie of the 21st century so far. John and Caine have an old fashioned gun standoff. While Caine does get the most points with John getting shot in the stomach, John still does earn his freedom when he rises back up and kills The Marquis.
with John and Caine having an old fashioned gun standoff, while Caine does get the most points with John getting shot in the stomach, John still does earn his freedom when he rises back up and kills The Marquis after he does not shoot the third time. John then walks over to the steps of the Sacre-Coeur and sits down to reflect on his life and marriage. He seemingly succumbs to his wounds and dies. It could be speculated that this would be the end of John Wick, but it could also mean that John is living in peaceful solitude from the rest of the world.
Overall, John Wick: Chapter 4 is the first great theatrical masterpiece of the year while also being a different kind of action movie, with a runtime of 2 hours and 49 minutes. The movie flies by impressively with multi-layered characters and plotlines, and gorgeous production design and cinematography. Chad Stahelski went from being Keanu’s stunt double in The Matrix to being one of the most respectable action directors of the past 10 years. Almost every side character had their time to shine, especially a proper send-off to Lance Reddick, who passed away on March 17th, 2023. He played Charon, the concierge of the New York continental. The action sequences of the film are the franchise’s best, Keanu gave a breathtaking performance, and the movie sets up more stories in the future.
I give it a 10/10.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is playing at the Regal Crossgates and Regal Colonie Center.