When Keanu Reeves first showed up in the 2014 movie John Wick, it felt like we were getting back a version of Reeves we hadn’t properly seen since The Matrix. Of course, with the smash success of the first film, director Chad Stahelski (formerly also Reeves’ stunt double in the Matrix films) got to make a sequel and then another, and now yet another sequel. While your mileage may vary when it comes to John Wick: Chapter 2 and John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum (the worst of the bunch, in this writer’s opinion), there’s no doubt that John Wick: Chapter 4 is a return to form for Stahelski and company.
Picking up after Parabellum — the spin-off film Ballerina starring Ana de Armas exists sometime in the interim between movies three and four — Chapter 4 starts with action and never stops. Stahelski leans completely into his strengths here, utilizing both the skillful stunt work that he’s been so hailed for and also the creative edge to this world of assassins that just walks the line between ridiculous and schlocky. John Wick takes himself very seriously, but you never feel like you’re not supposed to be laughing or gleefully drinking in the action sequences, you’re meant to be enjoying them.
And, boy, does Stahelski put his leading character through the wringer. Someone do a kill count for John because it must be in the hundreds in this movie and thousands across the four films. As a person who doesn’t really enjoy action sequences, and who finds blockbuster action like in the MCU movies to be insanely boring, Chapter 4 kept me at the edge of my seat. It combines the sort of video game logic that gamifies violence while softening consequences (John falls down multiple flights of stairs, he’s shot, he’s hit by cars) with what is most important when it comes to fight sequences: creativity.
I’ve talked about this but Stahelski and his stunt team’s creativity when it comes to action is what makes the movie. Add to that Reeves’ ability to do many of the stunts himself which result in fewer cuts and edits, and there are some scenes that are so good you literally can’t look away. It’s exhausting but not in a tedious sort of way, you’re having fun, and no matter how outrageous each fight is, it’s never boring.
The script leans into the campy world of assassins that have been built on movie after movie. The first John Wick was damn near perfect because there was so little that we knew about John, the following movies pulled back the curtain a little bit too much, but Chapter 4 strikes the balance. Wick keeps his relationships with characters like Winston (Ian McShane) and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), but we also look deeper into his past when we meet Caine (Donnie Yen) and Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada), two characters that we learn have a deeper history with John. Not only is it fantastic to see Yen on screen (though I have to wonder why he keeps booking jobs that require him to be blind) but the character utilizes his blindness to his advantage, turning him into a killing machine but one who operates very differently from John.
Sanada’s Shimazu, who offers John sanctuary at the Osaka Continental, is mysterious but clearly has a deep bond of brotherhood with John. His fight sequences with the samurai blade are fantastic. But it is actually Rina Sawayama who stands out the most in this film as Shimazu’s daughter Akira. Sawayama comes from the world of music, as a singer-songwriter, but she easily slips into the role of Akira. In her film debut, Sawayama blows it out of the water with not only her emotional scenes with Sanada but also her stunning fight scenes.
Ultimately, Chapter 4 is delightful because it leans full tilt into what makes John Wick good. It’s explosive, it’s intense, and it’s unrelenting. It doesn’t concern itself with silly things like the rules of physics or the consequences of internal bleeding. It’s very clear that Stahelski enjoys himself coming up with the fight sequences and considering he’s at the top of his industry, Chapter 4 is a treat to watch, plain and simple.
Catch John Wick: Chapter 4 in theaters this week!
JW’s kill count through the first three movies was 299 according to Screen Rant
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