It’s been nine years since the first John Wick film broke audiences brain’s and helped kick-start a new trend in action films (I’ll still argue it started with The Raid: Redemption). Even though almost a decade has passed and we’re on the 4th installment of the series, it feels like people are still reacting to John Wick as a brand new revolution. Much like the Fast & Furious franchise, if you don’t up the odds of each entry, audiences will start to walk. Does the newest film do enough to keep the series’ blood pumping?
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) continues to upset the balance and collective leadership of The High Table; the secretive and powerful organization that runs the network of highly skilled assassins around the world. His antics have awoken the presence of the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), another high-powered member of The High Table. Cunning and unforgiving, the Marquis employs the help of another assassin who had found his way out from under the thumb of the table. An old friend of John’s, Caine (Donnie Yen) the blind master killer is tasked to finally rid the table of John Wick. But Caine isn’t the only one after Wick’s head, as the open contract on his life still exists. Other players, such as the unnamed Tracker (Shamier Anderson) are vying for the cash and notoriety that comes with being the one to finally stop, John Wick.
As each film in the John Wick series released, the stakes needed to get higher. And sure, those stakes can refer to the trouble John keeps finding himself in, but really, it’s all about the level of crazy action and elongated set-pieces can be jammed into the running time. The running time which for John Wick: Chapter 4 is a whopping 169 minutes. Long movies get a bad wrap. As long as your interest can be held for the whole film, it shouldn’t matter the length. But when you’re back starts hurting after another long fight that could have ended ten minutes earlier, you have to question the decisions being made behind the scenes.
This also takes into consideration that the first 20-30 minutes of chapter 4 are much more exposition filled than one has come to expect. Even when the balls to the wall action starts to kick off, it is presented in short bursts, finally erupting into the long take insanity that one expects. Except, that long awaited madness is the 20 minute tale-end of the same fracas. Is the action bad? No. Does it feel forced? A bit. Even though there is plenty of eye candy, the first half of John Wick: Chapter 4 feels like it is treading too much water and stuck in its own filth.
After some seemingly unnecessary side journeys, the more clever choreography comes to life. Though it is the most unbelievable section of the film (why is 5am Paris operating like 9pm Paris?) the final three confrontations of Chapter 4 play like a resume for director
Chad Stahelski in a bid to helm some big screen video game adaptations. From the GTA style battle around the Arc de Triomphe where cars continue to spawn and drive through and already congested traffic jam to the over the head Hotline Miami incendiary shotgun shell rampage, an over-the-top, yet somewhat controlled style is on display. All of this culminates in one final long hallway (stairway in this case) beat-em-up on the way to the final boss battle.
A John Wick film isn’t complete without a gaggle of new and returning guests stars, as well. Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, and Laurence Fishburne all return for another run in with Wick-verse. But some of the newcomers feel a bit underused in their Chapter 4 time. It’s always great to see Donnie Yen in a big Hollywood blockbuster. But for the 2nd time in a large featured role in a box office draw, he is playing a blind man. Hiroyuki Sanada who is always a welcome addition to any film, feels somewhat underused in his time as the manager of the Osaka Continental. The best addition to the new chapter is Clancy Brown, but he’s in a clearly non-action role.
It’s hard to say a John Wick film is bad. Though the more tender story that has persisted from the first film still runs through the DNA of chapter 4, it is not a new tale to tug at your heart strings. Caine’s backstory and the strange friendships that run throughout the clan of killers helps elevate the Wick story, but it is not what carries the films. If you want non-stop action that just amazes and awes from point A to B; The Raid: Redemption is still the answer. John Wick: Chapter 4 tries to hard to be more important that people want it to be, and the end result suffers because of it.
Final Grade: B-
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Here’s the trailer of the film.