John Wick: Chapter 4


Director: Chad Stahelski
Writers: Shay Hatten, Michael Finch, Derek Kolstad
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Bill Skarsgård, Shamier Anderson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama, George Georgiou, Clancy Brown

Well, who woulda thunk it? Once upon a time, John Wick was supposed to be a trilogy. But, thanks to the enormous success of the franchise, we were blessed with a fourth. Amazing for fans, yet likely exhausting for Reeves, Stahelski and the fictional Wick. It’s been four years since Chapter 3: Parabellum, but thanks to the enjoyable action of chapters one-through-three, they’ve been a joy to relive many times and therefore it doesn’t really feel like it’s been that long. Usually by the time a franchise gets to this point, even if it’s having commercial success, it will normally begin to fail critically, as the films become more about money-making than filmmaking. Despite an incredibly weary Wick, does Chapter 4 (subtitled Chapter 4: Baba Yaga in some territories), manage to pass the franchise test and stand tall with its predecessors, or is it about time it hung up its holsters and put John to bed/in his grave?

The first three chapters are all set within the space of about a month, then chapter four drops us back in around about a few weeks after the events of chapter three, after John Wick (Reeves) has silently declared war on the High Table for all he (and his “friends”, if you can call them that), have been through. As he goes about causing a ruckus in his quest for vengeance, he is noticed by a member of the High Table, the Marquis Vincent de Gramont  (Skarsgård), who sends his own assassin after John, a blind retired assassin named Caine (Yen). On the side, John is also being pursued by an unnamed assailant who calls himself Mr. Nobody (Anderson), and who’s motives are relatively unclear. On top of that, he has the usual pleasure of having almost every hitman/assassin/Tom/Dick/Harry on his tail, resulting in the usual numerous fights and over-the-top violence that plagues John’s life in his bid for revenge and, eventually, his peace and freedom.

The thing about the John Wick movies is that, on the surface, they appear to be just run-of-the-mill action movies that may even seem ridiculous at times, much like the Asian martial arts movies of old that have had a huge influence on the Wick franchise. However, they are so much MORE than that, again much like many of the Asian movies of old: the story is solid, running through each movie seamlessly like one long tapestry; the production value is high, with its stunning cinematography, incredible set design and astounding stunt work and visual effects; the soundtracks are always, for want of a better word, lit; and casting is always spot-on. Chapter 4, I’m glad to report, continues this trend of being an overall piece of true cinematic art. Yes, it may not have a story for the ages, but what it does contain is the hard work and triumph of an entire creative team that not only give the fans what they want, but are clearly fans themselves, not just of John Wick, but of going the extra mile and creating something outstanding. Films like this should be boring as all heck and it would be so easy to just use the same formula to give us the exact same thing each time. Arguably, the formula is still the same, but the ingredients are stronger and consistently unique, enthralling us where we might have thought we could no longer be enthralled.

As mentioned, the overall production has really taken everything up a notch, to the point where we absolutely must talk about it. The cinematography had me stunned at some points (a particular scene with some Sakura in Japan and a one-shot birds-eye-view fight scene in a multi-room apartment were both incredible), and some camera angles paired with foreshadowing from the set design will keep you on your toes. The soundtrack, while retaining the EDM-style the franchise is known for, injects some rock music at just the right points, including a fun French language cover of the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black. The stunt work is, as always, a main factor of why this franchise is so popular and enjoyable, and the team have once again succeeded in not only keeping it shocking and entertaining, but also pushing the boat out even further for what John must endure, to the point where it is, indeed, ridiculous. But it’s all part of the fun of John Wick (I’m sure the character wouldn’t agree, were he real). One particular scene towards the end of the movie is sure to become famous, a scene involving many steps that John must get to the top of but is thwarted many times, with some rather comedic results, but also likely to leave you empathising hugely for John, if you weren’t already. I would really campaign for some nominations at next year’s award shows for the entire production side of this movie, even if just for the stunt work.

While John Wick is known primarily for all of the above, it’s not exactly known for its performances, character-wise. Perhaps this is mainly because our protagonist, the anti-hero to end all anti-heroes, is a man of very few words, and so Reeves’s performance is mostly measured on the physical side of the things, especially as the character becomes further removed from the reason we got onboard with his killing ways in the first place (that being the murder of his dog that his deceased wife bestowed upon him post-mortem). By Chapter 4, John is pretty tired now, as Reeves must be too, so I think we can let him off when it comes to rating his performance beyond the physical. I have to say though that Reeves is looking a good 10-15 years younger than he did in the previous movie, and much fitter, too. This must be down to either harder training (which is most likely, considering just how demanding Chapter 4 was), or there is some truth in those vampire/immortality rumours after all. Either way, his physical appearance works well for portraying the strength and endurance of the character. There are some sturdy performances surrounding him to enjoy, too. Yen’s Caine is an interesting, if somewhat stereotypical, character, but it’s refreshing to have a character that finally comes close to John in the action stakes while also having his own backstory and enough depth to make it difficult to decide if we want to root for him or not. On the other hand of this we have Skarsgård’s Marquis, a deviant enemy who leaves us no doubt where we stand with him. Skarsgård may be most famous for portraying Pennywise in the It movies, and so it’s no trouble to get on board with his performance as someone easy to despise. McShane and Fishburne return as Winston and the Bowery King, respectively, and manage to keep us grounded in the world we originally found ourselves in before John found himself going deeper with the High Table, and Reddick gave us his final completed performance as the delightful fan-favourite Charon the concierge, before Reddick’s untimely death shortly before the film’s release. It’s a fact that certainly lends more gravitas to Charon in this chapter, and his is a character that stands out in each movie as a genuine friend to John and loyal friend and employee to Winston.

Be prepared, Chapter 3 is a long one, but thankfully the action is fast-paced and visually pleasing yet broken up nicely with some dialogue and plot progression. This entry into the franchise does feel more action-heavy than the others, believe it or not, so you do have to be able to enjoy it for what it is. It’s a testament to Stahelski, Reeves and the entire cast and crew that they were still able to create something this enjoyable while still impressing the fans and I thank them wholeheartedly for not being lazy with it – quite the opposite, actually. They probably didn’t have to go this hard, but they did, and it was totally worth it. There is talk of a fifth instalment, but it’s yet to be fully decided. Normally it’d be a resounding no from me, but personally I haven’t had my fill of John Wick yet. I know the man deserves his rest, but I feel just one more could be squeezed out without ruining the franchise. If you would like to hear more but with spoilers, please read on below, but if not, thus endeth the review, thank you for reading, and please check out some of the stunning artwork for the promotional posters:


The ending, in my opinion, is entirely ambiguous as to whether John is dead or not. I’m one-hundred-per-cent under the impression that he is absolutely still alive and kicking. It is my belief that his death has been faked in order for him to retire without repercussions, despite being “free” of the High Table, and so if there is to be a fifth movie, he would have to be dragged back into that world for some very good reason. Perhaps something to do with his “family”, the Ruska Roma syndicate, who are maybe not quite done with him. I don’t know what could happen, but I would trust Stahelski and the writers implicitly to do right by John and the franchise, whether that means a fifth movie or not. On the plus side, it does look like we are getting a spin-off or two, so definitely stay tuned for those.

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