John Wick: Chapter 4

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

John Wick: Chapter 4
dir Chad Stahelski
scr Shay Hatten, Michael Finch
prd Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee, Chad Stahelski
with Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Ian McShane, Bill Skarsgard, Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Shamier Anderson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama, Clancy Brown, Scott Adkins, Marko Zaror, Natalia Tena
release US/UK 24.Mar.23
23/US Lionsgate 2h49

yen skarsgard anderson
See also:
John Wick 2 - 2017 John Wick 3 - 2019

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fishburne, reeves and mcshane
With this new chapter in the saga of a former mob fixer trying to get out of the business, the filmmakers create a full-on action fantasy epic, complete with a churning underlying emotionality. Across an enormous running time, the film builds up a compelling tale of revenge and redemption that's unusually involving. And of course it looks fabulous, with colourful design touches and outrageously intricate fight choreography.
Intent on taking down the international criminal community's elders, John (Reeves) sees the bounty on his head growing exponentially. Enraged, top boss Marquis (Skarsgard) flattens New York's safe haven The Continental, leaving its manager Winston (McShane) homeless, and he coerces blind henchman Caine (Yen) to kill John. They face off at Osaka's Continental, where an unnamed tracker (Anderson) turns up with his loyal dog and a plan to wait until the bounty is even bigger. Then in order to challenge the Marquis in Paris, John first needs to stop in Berlin and consolidate his support.
With its globe-circling narrative, the film carefully builds momentum, tightening its grip using each gorgeously shot set-piece. The big budget is apparent in the vast scale of the action, from eye-catching location work to intensely ambitious fight sequences. This is never gritty or naturalistic, as the people are indestructible: like relentless zombies they can only be killed by a shot to the head. So the violence is far over-the-top, heavily stylised to amp up the desperation in each battle.

Many fearsome figures assemble in John's wake, all trying to kill him. Reeves is effortlessly adept in the role, exhausted but resolute, loyal to friends and ready to dispatch another faceless attacker or iconic goon. Loyal cohorts McShane, Sanada and Fishburne get great scenes of their own, while Skarsgard creates a wonderfully twitchy villain. In between are Yen and Anderson as more complex figures who have deeper motivations for keeping John alive, at least for a little while longer.

Each sequence is viscerally astonishing, from a crowded waterfall rave battle in Berlin to frenzied all-out war on the streets of Paris. A jaw-dropping set-piece in an abandoned building is staged like a videogame, while John's ascension of the Sacre-Coeur steps is heart-stopping. The achingly cool settings add quirky touches at every turn, often with expansive views that have the best impact on the biggest screen possible. As before, it's John's internalised yearning that adds surprising resonance to the mayhem, delivering yet another emotional kick that leaves us hoping there's more to come.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 20.Mar.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall