Keanu returns with that ‘kill ’em all’, gun-fu action attitude which has made his John Wick franchise such a hot ticket within the action genre. This latest instalment once again pushes the boundaries and imaginations of the creative teams involved with more staggering staircase shootouts, neon illuminated underground raves being interrupted by the flares of pistol fire and blood splatters, and of course enough bone breakages and shattering skulls that one could possibly handle in a near three hour sitting.
The franchise has come a long way since 2014, which saw ex-hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) coming out of retirement to exact revenge upon his puppy’s murderer (totally justified) and the Russian mob connected to it. With Chapter 2 and 3 diving into the underground circle that Wick along with many others use to operate and the continental hotel hosted by owner Winston (Ian McShane) and his concierge Charon (the late great Lance Reddick), the series took a fruitful and fulfilling step towards growing its crazy world which has opened up opportunities for spin-off’s and sequels to coexist.
Having narrowly escaped death in the finale of Chapter 3 – Parabellum (something that happens often), Wick is once again on the run from those who sit at the high table and another price is put on his head. With few resources and even fewer friends, Wick will face another onslaught from the opportunists who look to cash in on Wick’s death as he continues to dodge a barrage of bullets, each looking to be the final blow.
As has been delivered so far in this franchise, Chapter 4 again ups the stakes and situations as Keanu’s kill count racks up to a tremendous total as he shoots and kung fu kicks his way through one breathless sequence to the next at such a rapid and rumbustious rate.
The story is ultimately set up in the movie’s opening five minutes. Much the same as the last two, Wick has an entire agency out to hunt him and being public enemy number one, the target on his head is an enticing pay-check for any who dare to take him on. Director Chad Stahelski throws the kitchen sink and then some at Keanu, who’s fight for survival and a way out seems more unlikely than ever before. Blasting his way through what feels like an endless gauntlet of mercenaries and contracted killers, John Wick: Chapter 4 really does run wild with its action heavy aesthetic and set-pieces that are as impactful as they are imaginative.
With Chapter 4 John Wick is a man of little words, but his actions are very lethal. The series known for its inventive kills and stunning fight choreography doesn’t hold back now. Chad, Keanu and their stunt team have crafted something that far surpasses what the series has done up to this point. One ariel tracking shot in particular being a complete showstopper.
Starring alongside Keanu are franchise favourites Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and Laurence Fishburne, with series newcomers Bill Skarsgard as Marquis de Gramont, a villain dressed to kill but with pockets so deep and endless lackies at his disposal is more than willing to send others to do his bidding. A fat suit wearing Scott Adkins who can perhaps be best described as Colin Farrell’s Penguin with more of a spring to his step. Shamier Anderson as a hitman for hire waiting for the right price before taking the fatal shot and Clancy Brown with martial arts legends Donnie Yen and Hiroyuki Sanada all putting a suspenseful shift in.
I have my criticisms with John Wick: Chapter 4, as was to be expected. The crew seem to jump from one capital city to the next causing mass panic and chaos and there’s not a single copper in sight. This is not something that is just restrained here, but certainly where I feel it’s most noticeable and inexcusable. As a matter of fact this entire assassin world that coexists with the seemingly normal that we know and understand rarely feel joined. One of the most striking sequences features Wick fending off a host of hitmen at Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, trying to avoid the vehicles of different sizes and speeds like a real life version of Frogger, and the traffic continues just like it’s another normal night in France’s capital.
There are also some sequences and settings that already feel familiar to the franchise but the stunt work keeps it fresh enough and watching Wick blast his way through a barrage of belligerent baddies is never boring or overstay its welcome.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is the biggest, boldest and longest in the series, and dare I say also the best. Chad Stahelski has crafted perhaps one the of the most consistent franchises in modern movie history with not a single feature lacking far behind in terms of quality. This series may not be the most innovative in terms of its story, but in terms of its action this has been a stone cold success.