Friday, March 24, 2023

John Wick: Chapter 4 - Review (No Spoilers)


It’s rare for a franchise to reach the fourth outing without any waning interest. It’s even more rare for a franchise to see increases in quality as each entry comes and goes. For the John Wick series, the fourth installment once again reiterates just how much of action cinema history lies within the bones of what makes these films great. All at once simple and bonkers, the series aestheticizes violence in a way that few other modern action flicks can muster for a scene, let alone the entirety of the runtime. 

With the price on his head ever increasing, legendary hit man John Wick (Keanu Reeves) takes his fight against the High Table global as he seeks out the most powerful players in the underworld, from New York to Paris to Japan to Berlin.

Since the second film, the world of Wick has continually been expanded to reveal this seemingly unending network of ruthless assassins, that follow their own very strict set of rules. Its visual design is endlessly fascinating, a modern society tied to ancient ways and simplistic technologies is ridiculously fun. John Wick: Chapter 4 expands on these ideas even further, traveling the globe and peering into these other corners of a world ruled by violence. 

But even if the settings weren’t dripping with style and panache, the stunt work would stand out for the remarkable, brutal, and beautiful choreography on display. Director Chad Stahelski is a stunt veteran, and it shows across the whole series, but especially in this outing. You can almost see him pulling the camera back with each scene, insuring that the audience can appreciate the physicality, grace and power behind the precise fight choreography. This film, combined with a certain other franchise later in 2023, further proves that stunt work needs more large scale recognition for the brutalizing work that’s put in. 

There are plenty of returning members in the cast, all just as good as they were previously, but where the Wick films excel is adding new characters and making them interesting for their sometimes very brief screen time. The introduction of Japan’s Continental hotel sees the inclusion of both Hiroyuki Sanada and Rina Sawayama, whose contributions are brief, but impactful. The filthy-rich, torturous Bill Skarsgard makes for perfectly evil adversary, and Donnie Yen as his skilled proxy Caine offers even more avenues for frenetic action. 

In a world increasingly plagued by shaky cam action and reliance on CGI to fill in the shortcomings of its time crunched choreography, John Wick: Chapter 4 is a reminder that care and time can produce movie magic in its best form. Though Keanu Reeves’ age can be seen in his movements from time to time, his training and willingness to perform these action scenes give the filmmakers so much freedom to let these kinetic scenes of gunfire and flying fists breathe, and showcase just how talented these numerous stunt performers are. It’s another win for an expanding franchise, and an early must see for 2023.

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