Movie review by Austin Frape
After the events of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, legendary hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) returns to his fight against the High Table, with Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) further increasing the price of his head. As the blind hitman Caine (Donnie Yen) is also hired by the High Table, Wick seeks allies in his war, including the Bowery King (Lawrence Fishburne), Winston (Ian McShane) and Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada).
Who would’ve thought that a 2014 sleeper hit would create an almost decade-long and influential franchise? Starting as a silly-sounding passion project from writer Derek Kolstad, and stunt coordinators turned directors/producers Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, John Wick was exactly what the action genre needed. Not only did the movie revitalise Reeves’ career, but it also created a surprising underground assassin world that was further expanded in Chapters 2 and 3. Now, we’ve reached chapter four, which is expected to be the last John Wick movie for the time being. Minus the slated spin-off movies and miniseries on the way.
Fortunately, Chapter 4 mostly continues the engaging streak of the series, even if the plot is mostly “been there, done that.” Wick is still globetrotting and finding new groups of secret assassins that either want to kill or ally with him. Ironically, the movie has even less of a plot than most of the series, despite the almost three-hour runtime. It almost seems like Stahelski and team had to go out of their way to connect the dots for where the story needed to go.
That being said, there is never a dull moment in the quick pacing, especially in what are some of the biggest fight sequences in the series. Utilising different Western and Eastern martial arts, and sensational cinematography from Dan Lausten, John Wick still puts most Hollywood action flicks to shame. Even if the choreography or weapons aren’t as creative as the predecessors, we still get plenty of gun-fu, swordplay, and car chases. Could certain sequences or scenes be trimmed or cut entirely? Sure. But at least they’re brutal and beautiful, bringing the body count to very high digits!
It’s the fourth entry of a series, but regulars McShane and Fishburne are still effortlessly amazing. However, even if Keanu’s not known for his acting skills, Wick very rarely says or emotes much during the entire movie. Most of his dialogue can be summarised as “gritted one-liners.” On one hand, this can work for a focused assassin, but on the other, it lessens the emotional impact of where the story leads. However, it’s Keanu, how can we criticise the beautiful man? Especially when he’s doing fantastic stunt work at almost 60 years old.
The new cast is also great, including Shamier Anderson as Mr. Nobody and Rina Sawayama as Akira. Skarsgård worked as a snivelling French villain, even if the role seemed more suited to a Bond movie. The biggest stand out was Yen as Caine. In a combination of tragic, hilarious, and badass, Yen was very attention-grabbing in every scene he was in. Plus, getting to see Yen and Sanada in a katana fight was an absolute treat. The film features one of the last performances by the late Lance Reddick, reprising his role as the concierge Charon. While the role wasn’t as big as the other installments, Reddick was still as memorable as always.
Overall, while John Wick: Chapter 4 doesn’t quite break the mould, it’s hard to not get swept up in the grand, impressive and thrilling action sequences. With a likeable cast and an entertaining enough revenge story, I can definitely recommend Chapter 4, especially if you’re a fan of the series or Reeves. It’ll certainly be interesting to see where the Wick-verse goes from here, but you can expect me there on day one.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is in Australian cinemas on March 23.
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