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John Wick: Chapter 4 Review

Film

John Wick: Chapter 4 Is an Action Epic for the Ages

Chad Stahelski crafts a grand sculpture of gunplay, feverishly yet methodically chiseled until its ultimate, explosive completion. It encapsulates the very reason why we go to the movies.

John Wick: Chapter 4 Review:

Chad Stahelski’s fourth entry into the John Wick series opens with fists, fire, and a cinematic homage. A match is lit, then blown out, suddenly giving way to a red sun rising over a desert landscape, where Wick trails foes on horseback like another iconic character. It’s an opening moment that clearly nods to the legendary “Match Cut” from Lawrence of Arabia. A three-hour-plus historical epic that is immortalized in the annals of film history for its breathtaking scope, sweeping imagery, and majestic set pieces. In the vein of that classic, John Wick: Chapter 4 is an action epic that will unquestionably go down as one of the greatest action films of all time, using its nearly three-hour runtime to its fullest possible effect. Delivering a handful of the most spectacular, mind-boggling sequences ever committed to celluloid.

It possesses an unrelenting, awe-inspiring quality that finds unique ways to build on what came before. Pushing the genre’s envelope with each set piece and cementing itself as the pinnacle of modern action filmmaking from its first frame to its last.

The series is no stranger to brutally slick, superbly executed gunplay, and even more inventive fisticuffs. Stahelski’s refusal to overedit and utter confidence in his vision renders each deliriously ingenious battle that much more resonant and memorable— sure to inspire emulation and imitation in equal measure.

Yet, this fourth entry weaponizes the series’ locales more than ever, effectively rendering them characters in themselves. Developing further as Wick and his adversaries make their way through them, littering them with bullets and setting them ablaze until only a sole victor remains. The film’s globetrotting scope injects a wide array of arenas into its violent proceedings, each more dynamic and volatile than the next, oozing with their own distinct, alluring atmospheres. These settings slot into the narrative seamlessly, serving a functional purpose far beyond a pretty backdrop.

(Lionsgate)

It’s this purposeful method to the madness that renders Chapter 4 a cut above its predecessors and even farther above other recent action output. Even when it veers into downright ridiculous territory, its brilliance, and prestige continue to shine through— piercing audiences’ expectations like a bullet straight through one of Wick’s assailants.

After his betrayal at the hands of Winston (Ian McShane), the New York Continental’s esteemed owner, feared hitman, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), finds the price on his head reaching new heights. In a bid to free himself from the bounty, he sets his sights on the High Table itself, taking his fight directly to the order’s new Marquis, Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård). Wick brushes shoulders with some of the most powerful (and eccentric) underworld figures, battling his way through New York, Japan, Berlin, and Paris on his quest for release and, ultimately, peace. But knowing the “Baba Yaga”, will it ever find him?

The characters Wick bumps heads with are some of the most engrossing, peculiar, and vividly realized in any film, let alone an action movie. Skarsgård’s Marquis, with his overflowing opulence and ruthlessness, is playfully formidable. His sneering pontifications cut as sharp as his conviction and resolve. Donnie Yen’s Caine, a blind assassin contracted by the Marquis, is also a vibrant highpoint. A walking blend of comedy and action that flips many sequences on their heads, redefining them as playgrounds with each methodical head turn and swing from his bladed cane. Shamier Anderson’s Mr. Nobody is also an eclectic standout, a wildcard with a German Shepard who pops into many clashes at exactly the right moments, as his retro outfit and firearms flavor the film’s buffet of bullets with the perfect notes. Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama, and the looming Clancy Brown are also stellar new entries, with old favourites like Lance Reddick, Laurence Fishburne, and Ian McShane’s ever-eloquent, ever-iconic Winston, rounding out the cast with charm and sonority. As for Mr. Wick, Keanu Reeves was virtually born to play him.

While each of the characters’ motivations are simple, they coalesce in a manner that is wholly rewarding, adding fresh stakes to each battle, keeping the experience just as thrilling in between the clashes. As a result, Chapter 4 often transcends the labels of “Action Cinema”, realizing itself as so much more.

It’s even more fitting that Chapter 4 boasts some of the greatest world-building in the series and some of the most memorable in recent memory. Pulsating with a singular aura, the laws, customs, and conventions of this underworld order are fascinating to see unfold, especially as they continue to increasingly underpin each set piece. Most notably, in a grimy poker game, a radio broadcast tracking an open bounty on Wick, and a culminating, somber pistol duel

(Lionsgate)

The immaculate visual design only serves to heighten that effect, with the production’s ornate, captivating blend of classicism and futurism reinforcing the film’s singular, neo-noir identity. Stahelski, in tandem with cinematographer Dan Lausten, imbues each composition with an immense amount of depth and colour. Painting a tapestry of lush neons and candlelight that is as picturesque as it is mournful. Lending fire to its blistering action as well as a sombre beauty to its more quiet moments, both made equally as riveting.

It’s a hard task to elevate the already impressive gun-fu of the series, but Stahelski manages that feat and then some. His unwillingness to cut and dogged insistence on long takes infuses the impossibly intricate choreography with insane levels of staying power. Forcing viewers to rest on each punch, dodge, and grapple despite how brief they are, as they attempt to piece together how all of it was so confidently realized. The wide array of combat styles and environmental factors lock the film into a pace that is always goosebump-inducing and never predictable. Resulting in an incredibly wacky, seemingly unending stairway sequence and possibly the single greatest overhead shot of all time, which gloriously tracks Wick’s rampage through a Paris apartment. Couple this with Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard’s booming, frenetic electronic score, and ripples are practically felt through the screen.

With John Wick Chapter 4, Chad Stahelski crafts a grand sculpture of gunplay, feverishly yet methodically chiseled until its ultimate, explosive completion. A violent, ferocious symphony that encapsulates the very reason why we go to the movies. Welcome, Mr. Wick, to the celebrated annals of film history.

– Prabhjot Bains

Written By

Prabhjot Bains is a Toronto-based film writer and critic who has structured his love of the medium around three indisputable truths- the 1970s were the best decade for American cinema, Tom Cruise is the greatest sprinter of all time, and you better not talk about fight club. His first and only love is cinema and he will jump at the chance to argue why his movie opinion is much better than yours. His film interests are diverse, as his love of Hollywood is only matched by his affinity for international cinema. You can reach Prabhjot on Instagram and Twitter @prabhjotbains96

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