John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) (Review)

John Wick: Chapter 4 dials up the action, scope, and length for one of the best action films in recent memory, setting the precedent for what makes a great franchise.

Initially meant for a 2021 release, action fans and Keanu Reeves fanatics have been looking forward to the fourth installment in the franchise since 2018’s John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Well, I can tell you, it’s worth the wait.

In John Wick: Chapter 4, the eponymous character, played by Keanu Reeves, finds himself once again on the run from the High Table, a group of powerful individuals who are determined to stop him. Like the other films, Reeves has very minimal dialogue but ushers out a reserved performance that fits the character so well. Could you imagine anyone else being John Wick?

The film’s main antagonist is the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), who keeps increasing the bounty on Wick’s head. Skarsgård is the perfect antagonist, someone you can easily root against while simultaneously portraying the role in a depraved way. I’ve seen many people regard the character as an aristocratic take on Joker, and that’s pretty much spot-on. In addition to dealing with this threat, Wick must also deal with Winston Scott (Ian McShane), who you’ll recall from Chapter 3. Without spoiling, he’s a great continuous character for the franchise but serves a different purpose than the third film.

Chapter 4 opens with Wick traveling to Japan to seek help from the head of the Osaka Continental, Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada), where he eventually encounters a dangerous blind assassin named Caine (Donnie Yen). Caine is an old friend of Wick and pairs along nicely as the secondary protagonist. Lance Reddick is also back as Charon and has an effective yet understated portrayal of a character who plays a crucial role in the world of John Wick. RIP Lance Reddick; you will be missed.

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Along the way, Wick’s friend and mentor, The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), provides him with much-needed support and a new bulletproof suit. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know why that detail is needed. Shamier Anderson also appears in the film as an assassin—deemed as the Tracker/Mr. Nobody—who’s waiting for the price on Wick’s head to reach a certain level before he tries to collect the bounty. Like all John Wick movies, Mr. Nobody has a dog that’s equally as bada** as his assassin owner.

❝The set pieces, action bits, fight sequences, and practical/special effects are next level.

The film has many strengths, with one of its biggest related to the supporting cast. None of these characters feel forced to show up on the screen solely so a spinoff film or television series could get made. They have depth to them and add to the story rather than being there for the sake of other content (Marvel takes notes). Now let’s talk about the primary focus of the film: the action. Every bit of this expanded budget isn’t exclusively there for the actors and filmmakers to get more for themselves financially. The set pieces, action bits, fight sequences, and practical/special effects are next level.

The world-building continues to expand at the highest level, creating a rich and detailed world that is populated by skilled assassins and criminals, each with their own unique fighting styles and techniques. This allows for a wide variety of fight scenes that are always fresh and exciting.

It’s also incredible to see a big-budget film rely so heavily on practical effects, meaning that many of the stunts and explosions are done in real life rather than depending on computer-generated effects. I personally believe it gives the action a weight and impact that is often lacking in movies that lean solely on CGI. While the length may seem tiring for some, John Wick: Chapter 4 is a testament to what a big-budget film can be. Everything about the film is massive, and almost everything works so well. It’s exciting to see where the franchise can go from here.

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