John Wick: Chapter 4 (2022) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): John Wick Vs. the World (Continued)

“John Wick: Chapter 4” aims for being bigger, faster, and louder with more style, vision, and excitement than its predecessors, and I appreciate and enjoy that a lot. Sure, the movie is mostly all about style and entertainment without much depth in terms of story and characters, but there are a series of tense, stupefying, and exhilarating action sequences to remember, and you will definitely admire how its franchise has steadily and creatively advanced during last several years since the rather modest first film came out in early 2015.

First, let me summarize what happened during the first three movies. In “John Wick” (2014), our titular hero played by Keanu Reeves was a retired professional hitman and assassin, but, not long after losing his dear wife, he came to be back in action for his personal revenge for a dog left by his dead wife. As a result, he was drawn back into the secret underworld society filled with various criminal figures in “John Wick: Chapter 2” (2017), and then he came to break a certain cardinal rule of his old criminal world. As a consequence, he came to fight against a lot of guys sent by a very, very, very powerful organization named the High Table in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” (2019), and then, at the last minute, he was betrayed by Winston Scott (Ian McShane), who was supposed to be one of his few main allies.

Anyway, as shown at the end of the third film, Wick managed to survive, and he prepares to continue his brutal lonely fight against the High Table under the protection of the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), a local underground crime boss who is also quite angry about the High Table just like Wick. Once he gets sort of fully charged, Wick quickly goes all the way to a certain figure ruling over the High Table, and the movie gives us a little nice nod to that famous jump cut moment in David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

Donnie Yen as Caine in John Wick: Chapter 4. Photo Credit: Murray Close

However, those folks of the High Table still do not quit at all mainly because of those old but firm rules and principles to which everyone including them and Wick stick without any question. In their viewpoint, Wick must be eliminated as soon as possible for maintaining their own law and order, so there comes Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), a prominent member of the High Table who takes the full control for killing Wick by any means necessary. Besides raising the amount of the bounty on Wick, the Marquis also hires a blind but lethal assassin named Caine (Donnie Yen), and Caine cannot say no to the Marquis for good reasons, even though he was one of Wick’s old friends in the past.

As Caine and those numerous goons sent by the High Table go after Wick along the story, we surely get plenty of actions unfolded on the screen as expected, and director/co-producer Chad Stahelski and his crew members including cinematographer Dan Lausten, who was recently Oscar-nominated for Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” (2017) and “Nightmare Alley” (2021), pull all the stops for maximum cinematic effect. For example, one main action sequence set in Tokyo is as stylish and energetic as that famous action sequence in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill – Volume 1” (2003), and that is just the appetizer for what will follow next along the story. I like the surreal qualities of the busy action sequence unfolded inside a big nightclub in Berlin, and I assure you that the expected climactic part set in Paris will not disappoint you at all with a wonderful homage to Walter Hill’s “Warriors” (1979).

I must also point out that you may cringe and wince a lot during some of the most violent moments in the film. However, these brutal moments are deftly executed with a considerable amount of style and technique at least, and there is also some dry sense of absurd humor around the movie. After all, the members of the High Table are committing one of the most idiotic wastes of human resource in the action movie history just because they want to eliminate only one man, aren’t they?

Keanu Reeves as John Wick in John Wick 4. Photo Credit: Murray Close

Amid all the sound and the fury in the film, Reeves diligently carries the film as he did before in the previous three films. He may have limits as an actor, but his understated acting style constantly anchors the film from the beginning to the end, and his overall efforts in the John Wick series surely demonstrate how he has become more interesting during last two decades since the Wachowskis’ “Matrix” (1999).

Around Reeves, the movie has a number of colorful cast members to complement Reeves’ stoic presence. While Donnie Yen and Bill Skarsgård certainly have a lot of juicy moments as Wick’s two main opponents, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama, Shamier Anderson, Scott Adkins, Clancy Brown, and Ian McShane have each own fun with their respective supporting parts, and the special mention goes to Lance Reddick, a dependable character actor who sadly died a few weeks ago but gets his own small moment to shine early in this film at least.

On the whole, “John Wick – Chapter 4” is the best entry in its franchise thanks to its skillful handling of mood and action. Despite its long running time, which is no less than 169 minutes, the movie seldom lags while never boring us at all, and I wanted to applaud its striking style and grand ambition even though I was often overwhelmed and exhausted by its relentless intensity throughout my viewing. In short, this is one of the most exciting action films of this year, and you should really check it out especially if you enjoyed the first three films.

Laurence Fishburne as Bowery King, Keanu Reeves as John Wick, and Ian McShane as Winston in John Wick 4. Photo Credit: Murray Close
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