Shortly after the events of John Wick: Chapter 3, the eponymous former assassin, played by Keanu Reeves, has recovered his strength and sets out to exact revenge on the mysterious High Table. In retaliation (or out of desperation) the unseen High Table appoints the Marquis Vincent de Gramont [Skarsgård] to kill John Wick by any means necessary. To do this, the Marquis destroys any place that has given Wick refuge. Additionally, he puts an impressively high bounty on John’s head, contracts his former friend Caine [Yen] to take him out personally, and strikes a deal with an unnamed tracker [Anderson] that has a knack for locating the elusive Mr Wick.
John Wick is the very definition of humble beginnings. A simple but keenly executed movie helmed by a stunt team that found its audience and took root. As such, nobody could have predicted how beloved and genuinely impressive these movies would become. And most of that seems to stem from an attitude of sheer confidence. An assuredness that no matter how silly the dialogue gets, no matter how insane the action escalates, and no matter how much disbelief would need to be suspended, the final product would be the epitome of the word “cool.”
And for all the lore that suddenly crept up on audiences, it’s that very same exaggerated comic booky, video game feeling, mad world-building that truly brings these films to life. Presenting us with a meticulously shot world of opulence and death, allowing the cast and crew to perform some of the most self indulgent creative brilliance. And in the process, delivering a different cut of action film, that incorporates truly sublime cinematography, lighting and direction, with choreography that creates a fluid efficiency which somehow maintains a credible level of danger among the absurdity. Meaning, you can have a gorgeously lit fight sequence in a club, replete with bulletproof suits, jaw-dropping practical stunts and a score that continues to slide and weave through the action and drama… but the ravers gonna rave regardless.
In terms of the calibre of acting, the only problem with the chaptered life of John Wick is that it’s very hard to tell what drives him. Even the film highlights he’s someone without anyone to live, die or kill for. He’s a man possessed. And this has always been a double-edged sword for these movies. As his exploits continue, Wick’s entire globe-trotting ordeal feels less like an act of honouring his dead wife, and more a flimsy excuse to hurt people. But, without dismissing this deeply seated flaw, the story is essentially secondary. It’s the spark to get the high octane brawls and laughable melodrama going. And the film knows this. What’s more, Reeves’ personification sidesteps this magnificently. As I said nearly a decade ago in my review for the first film, this is a film designed to showcase Reeves’ strengths. And at nearly 60 years old, that man is still impressing us all.
**significant spoilers throughout this paragraph**
The thing that’s most impressive at this juncture, is the running streak these films have achieved. Cinema is littered with sequels that have stumbled and tarnished a brand. Whether catastrophically with one car crash release, or a steady decline into mediocrity and obsolescence. So, thanks to some acute wisdom (and possibly aching joints and screaming cartilage) an end had to be formulated. Although, I have to admit, it’s one many cinemagoers will not see coming. Despite the bread-crumbing with characters repeatedly asking “Where does this end?” “Where will this lead to?” “What’s next, John?” The answer still shocks when it comes to its bloody reply: when the party is at its best.. leave.
But what can one say about the John Wick films that hasn’t already been said? At this stage, you’re either in or out. There’s no real sense in highlighting that the number of rules these criminals bind themselves to are more hilarious than the laws they refuse to adhere to. Similarly, these movies make a handful of performative gestures to include meaningful female characters, but many fall by the wayside. In truth, if you didn’t buy into the pomposity and over seriousness that was on display by the events of John Wick: Chapter 2, nothing about this movie is going to change your mind; you’ll still be sitting through a very long slow meditation, broken up by brutal action set pieces. But that isn’t a bad thing. The John Wick franchise knows exactly what it is and unabashedly uses its formative strengths to shield its glaring weaknesses. And somehow, in doing so, has managed to defiantly etch its name and secured a legitimate legacy in the annals of action cinema.
24 March 2023
The Scene To Look Out For:
John Wick 4 is honestly packed with scenes that are both memorable and gripping. So to stand out amongst that, is quite the achievement. To my mind, one of the most impressive sequences, however, is a tracking shot through a derelict Parisian house, with a top down camera following the uninterrupted action through multiple rooms, set ablaze with incendiary shells. It’s a combination of masterful choreography and beautiful destruction.
As with the orgy of fantastic scenes, given how many characters and cameos this film dishes up, singling out one is no mean feat. I could highlight how one of Lance Reddick’s final performances hits hard (with his recent departure), or that Bill Skarsgård’s lanky frame towering over his fellow cast makes him a formidable villain. But it’s Donnie Yen. The man, who is also pushing 60, is an utter powerhouse and thankfully wasn’t relegated to a single scene, but given the space and opportunity to be just as thrilling and captivating as he has always been.
“Friendship means little when it’s convenient.”
In A Few Words:
“As elegant as it is savage, John Wick: Chapter 4 is a masterstroke.”
Total Score: 5/5