John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) – Review


Seemingly going from cult to icon in less time it takes to pump a shotgun, John Wick managed to shoot his way up the ranks of the modern action movie franchce to be able to look the likes of Mission: Impossible and Fast & Furious right in the eye. The fact that the series has managed it in a fraction of the time too while changing the face of the genre to boot has been nothing short of remarkable, but even the most ardent fan must have glanced at Wick’s broken body at the end of the magnificent Chapter 3 and openly wondered: where the hell is all this going?
Well, returning director Chad Stahelski and an increasingly haggard looking Keanu Reeves finally have an answer – here. It’s all leading here.
The John Wick movies have never lacked for balls (before they’re usually torn off by a snarling attack dog), but a near three hour runtime even made me think that even Baba Yaga might have finally bitten off more than he can chew – never have I been more glad to be wrong.


After recuperating under the care of underground crime boss, The Bowery King, John Wick is ready to head out and get yet another serving of revenge in response to the ridiculous price put on his head by the shadowy criminal overlords known as the High Table. Immediately announcing his return by jetting off to Morocco and putting a hollow point into the grey matter of the Elder, the only man above the people above, John then takes refuge in the Osaka branch of the Continental hotel, coincidentally run by an old ally, Shimazu Koji, who shelters him despite his strict excommunicardo status – a flashy term meaning that everyone should treat him like a fucking leper that’s put into practice when the High Table unleashes the Marquis, a senior member of their ranks, onto the New York branch of the Continental.
As well as taking Wick’s scheming ally, Winston, to task, the Marquis not only ups the bounty on John, but he also cruelly procures the services of assassin Caine, who not only has a history with John (doesn’t everyone?) but may even be Baba Yaga’s equal despite the fact that he’s as blind as a blindfolded Steve Wonder.
Thus begins an epic journey that crosses the globe as John slides various pieces into place by using the old rules of the High Table to manuever the Marquis into accepting a duel and thus finally find a way to finally leave this life behind him once again. However, the obstacles are legion and possibly none are more dangerous as Mr. Nobody, a random wildcard and his dog that’s been tracking Wick and keeping him in his sights until the price on his head gets high enough to finally pull the trigger. With every killer in multiple countries gunning for him for a ludicrously high bounty, can Wick get to the Marquis in time in order to end the snowballing bloodshed that started the moment someone dared to fuck up his dog.


There’s a sense of finality with John Wick: Chapter 4 that goes little further than morbid discussions about mortality and headstones and it’s almost if the filmmaker’s huddled round at the start of production and mutually agreed that not even John Wick can keep going forever. As a result, instead of the inevitable Chapter 5 and a Chapter 6, we have a Chapter 4 that contains so much carnage and weird side missions, that it surely could have provided ample material for at least three movies and is, in part, responsible for that gargantuan running time. While I’m no stranger to movies that last longer than some people’s labour period, I have to admit that a 3-hour John Wick movie intimidated me, especially when one of the first, major action sequences isn’t that different from the one that ended Chapter 3 as our hero squared up to an army of bullet-proof goons and a sword wielding, asian, martial artist. However, as Chapter 4 unfurls its huge story, the filmmakers reveal their intentions to stunning effect and that’s to take the mythic aspects of the story to unfeasibly stylish extremes. As even more archaic, complex rules are laid out for the world that Wick’s scattered more spent bullet casings in than the US army, we introduced to yet more, outlandish characters such as Donnie Yen playing yet another charismatic, lightning fast blind guy after the one he portrayed in Rogue One, Bill Skarsgärd’s cold blooded Marquis and Scott Adkins’ bloated, damp-browed Killa, who uses his metallic teeth to chomp his way through most of the glitzy sets. In fact, at one point, you’d swear you were watching John Woo direct a Sin City movie as the eccentric cast blow sizable chunks out of each other during the flabbergastingly excellent action beats as the story starts bringing all of the cast withing firing range. In fact, once Reeves, Yen and Shamier Anderson’s Mr. Nobody finally start to converge, it’s obvious that Stahelski has sights on fusing The Good, The Bad And The Ugly with Hard Boiled – and the most impressive aspect is that he very nearly succeeds as his opus of blood and bullets it to gun fights what Mad Max: Fury Road was to car chases.


Those still unimpressed with John Wick’s method of crafting hyper-stylised world building while doing a forward roll takedown of a baddie before shooting him point blank in the face, probably won’t find anything to convert them here and may even find the long stretches of unbroken action somewhat irritating, but those who appreciate the finer art of cinematic gunplay and body crunching stunts with be in hog’s heaven.
Wondering how the bar could possibly be raised after the last movie’s scenes of exaggerated ass-kicking? Boy, are you in for an absolute treat as the sprawling set pieces not only throw the gauntlet down for the next Mission: Impossible movie, but slaps it full in the mouth. You’ll gawp in awe as numerous, genuinely bruising smackdowns propel the narrative like a nasty kid shoving his sibling down a flight of stairs, but the real jaw dropper is the climax which starts off utterly insane and then somehow gets crazier from there. Be it the blisteringly brutal running gun battle that takes place among the bustling traffic that circles the Arc de Triomphe and that sees countless thugs (and Wick) splattered by speeding cars, or a Brian De Palma-esque moment where we look down on a cutaway section of a house while our hero unleashes literal hell thanks to a never ending supply of incendiary shotgun shells (like getting shot with a normal shotgun isn’t enough?!), the breakneck pace never lets up even when it’s breaking actual necks – however, the piece de resistance is Wick having to make it up the many stairs leading up to the Sacré-Cœur despite hordes of goons standing in his way.


Does it stretch its plot wafer thin? Well, sort of – Wick’s plot development has all but evaporated in favour of almost making him a suit-wearing force of nature – but the whole point of John Wick Chapter 4 is that the story is the action and the action is the story. Exhausting, exhilarating, moving and stunning – this movie burns the wick from both ends and is all the more better for it.


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