“John Wick: Chapter 4” review: An eye for an eye


Courtesy of Lionsgate

Ver Lumod, Staff Writer

The fourth and latest installment in the “John Wick” action franchise sees actor Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski continue to raise the bar for action filmmaking in Hollywood. “John Wick: Chapter 4” ramps up the action thrills while also becoming an epic worthy of Odyssey as it rushes headlong into an especially memorable final hour.

The film opens with its title character (Reeves) seeking revenge on the High Table, represented by the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), who raises the bounty on Wick’s head and puts his benefactor Winston (Ian McShane)’s life in danger. The legendary assassin seeks shelter at the Osaka Continental in Japan through its owner Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his daughter Akira, played by singer Rina Sawayama. He runs afoul of a blind High Table assassin named Caine (Donnie Yen) as well as bounty hunter Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson), who both follow Wick around as the price on his head increases.

There’s not a lot of plot in the film, which helps a lot as bullets start flying and blades start cutting. In fact it spends its epic runtime (169 minutes) on densely choreographed set pieces, which kept getting more and more mesmerizing as the film progressed. From the obligatory nightclub brawl in Berlin where Wick battles Scott Adkins in heavy makeup and a fat suit (a homage to Hong Kong action legend Sammo Hung) to a series of escalating gun battles in Paris, “John Wick: Chapter 4” has completely revitalized the Hollywood action genre. Add to that the franchise’s penchant for shooting them in one takes and relying on minimal cutting, and “John Wick” has cemented itself as a modern genre-defining moment.

Owing to director Stahelski’s background as a stunt performer, it makes sense that he knows how to direct these delicate dances of death. They may feel long to the uninitiated, but they create a momentum that keeps going. It also helps that the plot is kept to a minimum, making the film itself feel like a video game. Wick achieves objectives from New York and Osaka to Berlin and Paris, and even has a Q figure in “Matrix” co-star Laurence Fishburne’s Bowery King as the former provides him with bulletproof suits.
Much has been said about Reeves’s apparent inability to act in other movies, but his commitment to playing the stoic assassin who just wants to get it done is amazing. While he may not be as wisecracking as John McClane or brawny as John Rambo, his coolness makes him more interesting. It also allows the rest of the cast to shine, like Yen, widely known as an action star in Asia, and Anderson, whose Mr. Nobody is a mirror image of Wick (complete with dog). In addition, Sawayama makes the most of her screen debut as an arrow-wielding femme fatale, which should signal an eventual spinoff for Akira.

Among the many flaws of “ John Wick: Chapter 4” is that it is needlessly long in some aspects. Even as it signals itself as an epic, complete with an especially clever “Lawrence of Arabia” reference, some scenes could be trimmed down. While previous sequels have prided themselves on leveling up on the action cinematography, I have personally noticed that the exposition slowly seeps in as the franchise finds new screenwriters and establishes its lore. While it’s not bad at all, it would be best to keep it at a minimum and focus on the action.

And action “John Wick” has in spades. As major studios bet big on lengthy blockbusters post-pandemic, “Chapter 4” is really meant to be seen on the big screen. It possesses a special kind of crowd-pleasing energy that anyone wouldn’t get from watching at home. As Wick fights for his life, one can only think of Shimazu’s prophetic question to him: “Have you given any thought to how this ends?” The answer lies in the titular assassin (and the studio)’s will to keep going.


“John Wick: Chapter 4” is now playing in theaters.

Illustration by Ariel Landry