‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ movie review: Keanu Reeves is all aces in final instalment that’s more personal and bloodier than ever

John Wick’s no-holds-barred killing sprees and how he executes hordes in style are the reason why we love these films and the latest — and best — instalment in the franchise only ups the ante on that front

March 24, 2023 05:39 pm | Updated 05:39 pm IST

A still from ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ 

A still from ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Thanks to The Last of Us, adapting games into films/series is back as a topic of conversation. But we seldom think about films that could be made into games; if such a list were be made, it would not be complete without John Wick. Given the missions, the arsenal of weapons, the fights, the need to survive, and of course, the number of times our titular hero ‘respawns’, it makes for a brilliant open-world game or a first-person shooter. But what makes the latest offering, John Wick: Chapter 4, slightly different is how John is done running for his dear life. Given that escaping the predicament and facing it will still result in the killing of hundreds, but with only one of the options leading to the removal of the bullseye mark which the High Table has placed on his head, John does what he should’ve done one film ago: go for the High Table itself.

John Wick: Chapter 4 (English)
Director: Chad Stahelski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick
Runtime: 169 minutes
Storyline: To earn his freedom, John Wick must take on a new adversary and in due course lose some friends 

Keeping in tradition, the fourth iteration also starts right after the events of the previous film. John travels to Morocco and kills the Elder, the only individual above the High Table, thereby kickstarting a new series of repercussions that only he can handle; the first being the arrival of the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (an in-form Bill Skarsgård), a powerful member of the High Table. After destroying the New York Continental, stripping Winston Scott (the ever-dependable Ian McShane) of his duties as manager and killing Charon (Lance Reddick in his last role before his death) as a punishment, De Gramont enlists Caine (a perfectly-cast Donnie Yen), a blind, retired High Table assassin who also happens to be John’s friend, to kill him.

So many developments and subplots might be a regular occurrence in other films, but for a John Wick movie that’s known for its minimalism, this complexity is new and adds layers bifurcating the plot into areas the franchise treads afresh. This switch, along with understanding what has been the building blocks of the franchise to become a global phenomenon and amping that up, makes John Wick: Chapter 4 the best instalment in the franchise. It also joins the coveted list of franchises like Mad Max and Star Wars where even the fourth film is as good as the rest of them.

The core idea of the almost-decade-long series is John Wick romancing death and the franchise romanticising violence. Burying morality and the concept of conscience along with his dead wife and puppy, John’s no-holds-barred, no-nonsense killing spree and how he executes hordes in style is the reason why we love these films; Chapter 4 only upsurges on that aspect. It’s the same old guns, knives, nunchakus and katanas that have been a staple of Hollywood actioners. But it’s the creative methods of applicability which aren’t just insanely crazy and suave, but also extremely gratifying to witness. In the final battle that requires John to remove his kevlar protected suit jacket, the sound that reverberates are the bullet shells emptied on him which fall off after failing to cut through the protection. But despite clearing his way through the concrete jungles overcrowded with well-trained assassins, the kills are clean, and far from the gory style we’ve acclimatised to thanks to titles like Mortal Kombat.

To be honest, the brilliance behind the action sequences shouldn’t be a surprise anymore, given the director of all four John Wick films is celebrated stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski who has worked with Reeves since the days of the Matrix films. What always astonishes is the innovation of marrying storytelling to action sequences and the sheer flamboyance with which our titular character empties his never-ending magazines and stylishly reloads for the next round. The cinematography by Dan Laustsen and the cuts by Nathan Orloff puts us intimidatingly close to the action, and the shots linger enough for us to marvel at a kill before we are treated with hundreds more. The Osaka episode, a detour that takes John back to the Ruska Roma syndicate that offers a side mission — and the massacre before the Sacré-Cœur duel — are some of the best action set-pieces seen in recent times.

A still from ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ 

A still from ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Despite the franchise exponentially growing with every film, it still sticks to its basic roots of sticking to the tropes that worked; like a dog in distress outweighing the lives of countless men, and how good friendship is rare but not impossible to find. John Wick films aren’t exactly synonymous with brilliant performances but many have strived to give this franchise an image makeover. What comes on top is Donnie Yen’s Caine. If you loved his action as a blind warrior in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, he takes it up multiple notches as a blind retired assassin out to draw the blood of John to save his daughter. Reeves, as always, aces as the straight-faced hitman with a legendary reputation that will send chills down the spines of anyone standing against him.

As the longest film in the franchise, though the action sequences are a treat to watch, some scenes feel like a downer, given how they only act as fillers to abridge two fights. But the film almost makes up for it by bringing in a much-needed closure of sorts to our hero’s long run. With a rather melancholic ending, reminding us of Logan and the last James Bond film No Time to Die, it felt like the makers’ highlighting that there’s more to John Wick than just mindless action.

On the whole, John Wick: Chapter 4 is yet another unapologetic action extravaganza that stands apart for packing in more in almost every aspect when compared to its previous films. While we aren’t sure if there will be more from the franchise, we know that there’s a spin-off in Ballerina and a series titled The Continentalcoming up. If the franchise manages to survive just like the Baba Yaga, then more epic action entertainment is a given.

John Wick: Chapter 4 is currently running in theatres

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