Movie Review: John Wick Chapter 4

John Wick Chapter 4 will knock your eyeballs out the back of your head, which is regrettable since this is one movie you’ll want to keep them peeled for. The newest John Wick is really, really, ridiculously good-looking. No light source can resemble reality whatsoever; if a navy-blue room populated by luminous neon frames must be divined to keep the eye-candy rolling, it will be, and if we’re in a simple kitchen, it has to look even more brilliant than that.

Director Chad Stahelski telegraphs his intentions to expand the scope of the series right in the opening scene, soon after the first shot: a thunderous collision of Wick’s fist with a sparring board (bar none the loudest sound this reviewer’s ever heard in an IMAX theatre). There’s an homage to Lawrence of Arabia’s famous ‘match cut’ from a lit match to the sunrise over a vast desert just after this. Stahelski loves movies, and his operatic genre penchant invades the score as well, with wandering ronin cues that bring to mind Masaru Sato, and then pistols-at-dawn Morriconean twang. Moments like these remind us of the poster of Chapter 3, invoking the classic still of Harold Lloyd surrounded by firearms.

No doubt, the script is as thin as that of the previous three instalments, and John himself remains pretty uncompelling as a character, though there are some more eccentric additions here (particularly Donnie Yen’s Zatoichi-esque blind swordsman and a slippery Bill Skarsgård as the villain). The one textual element to praise is the ludicrous assassination-nation-underbelly of the Wick-verse, which is such goofy fun because it never once winks at the audience. The logic of this reality is farcical, but completely hammered home by the filmmaking, constrained only by what the creatives find ‘cool’.

“What if people got into close-contact fights, with their guns? What if it took well over four gunshots to take out an opponent (everyone wears bulletproof, impeccably tailored suits)? What if there were hundreds of those opponents? What if we put them all along a massive stairway that the good guy must ascend to get to the final boss?” These are joyously videogame-y films, and though you long for a more well-rounded experience, upon close inspection, Chapter Four falls under the ‘action’ genre. Apparently, some are in need of a reminder.

Keanu Reeves remains a perfect fit for the tight-lipped, unkillable Wick, even as his median line of dialogue remains a collection of breathy variations on “Yeah”. Internet opinionistas opining the vast amounts Reeves was paid per line are deliberately missing the point. Just look at him go!

john wick chapter 4

The awe-inducing stunt work and choreography is a given and the NorthStar visual production (from sets to camerawork) goes above and beyond the drab, concrete palette of many modern blockbusters. There is a sequence in the film, a patrolling gun-down played out in a oner seen entirely from above the passages characters weave between, involving quality stunt work, tremendous blocking and novel pyrotechnics, that should drop jaws with the ruthless efficiency of Wick himself. Moments like these help Chapter 4 live up to its outlandish gun-fu inspirations like Hard Boiled and The Killer.

It is three hours long, and in an IMAX theatre all that forceful gun violence can start to become a little overbearing if you stop to think for more than a second, while everything else is low on calorie, but the fact is that this is the best John Wick film precisely because it is the most giving, the one easiest to luxuriate in, chock full of incredible set pieces that out-do the best of what’s come before (yes, even the knife-museum debacle). Outperforming expectations, the studio is already considering a fifth instalment, and God knows what they’ll have to do for that film, since Chapter Four is made as if its creators knew they were burning daylight. Whether this film or the next, one can only hope John Wick goes out with a bang.