The action movie scene has been hot over the past few years. Be it Bad Boys for Life, Birds of Prey or even a multitude of MCU movies, finding some fun thrills at your local theater or streaming service of choice has been easy. And through this deluge of adrenaline-infused rampages, John Wick has been a staple since the first movie hit theaters back in 2014.
Since then, we have followed the former hitman’s return to his murderous ways after the death of his wife. He took down portions of the Russian and Italian Mafias in the first two chapters with extreme prejudice. Also, in Chapter 2, a cabal of crime bosses called The High Table is first mentioned. And it is this secret group that becomes John’s main threat in Chapter 3, where his ties to the criminal underworld are severed and a hit is placed on his head.
The pace of these films have been very well put-together, adding more layers to the story and making the plight of our hero even more daunting. The entire John Wick series has been like watching a videogame on the big screen.
And now, in Chapter 4, John (Keanu Reeves) is out to take down The High Table for good, with the help of the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), Winston (Ian McShane) and Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada). Faced with an ever-mounting bounty for his continued actions, John is hunted down by the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), a member of The High Table with unlimited resources at his disposal. Using this power, the Marquis activates Caine (Donnie Yen), an assassin looking for a way out and a friend of John Wick. Added to the insurmountable odds, an independent tracker named Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson) and his pet dog seek John’s bounty.
Any lesser man would not be up for the task, but John Wick is always ready.
In most cases, movies tend to lose some steam as they get further into sequel hell, but John Wick: Chapter 4 is one of the rare examples of a fourth installment being just as amazing as the first in the series. Both films had incredibly high body counts and headshots. And both films have their own moments of inadvertent comedy. But John Wick: Chapter 4 takes all of those and turns it up to 11 on a 10-point scale.
The action in this movie is nonstop. From the sands of an Arabian desert to the back alleys of Germany and even the 220 steps of the Sacré-Cœur in Paris, the fights only stop long enough for the audience to catch a breath. Like a video game, John has to go through challenges to reach his final boss, the Marquis. He has to not only defat the hundreds of lackeys sent after him, but he has to restore his crest with the Ruska Roma crime family and run a gauntlet through the streets of Paris.
Each of these mini-missions has its own bosses to take down, including a completely ridiculous villain named Killa (Scott Adkins). The audience at my screening gasped, shouted and looked genuinely concerned for Wick’s well-being while sitting on the edge of their seats throughout the film’s entire runtime.
The movie is not without its faults. The beginning of the film felt very out of place. It was so out of place that I felt like Chapter 4 was going to be more like a parody than an action movie. It just felt so out of place seeing the character, dressed in his signature all-black suit, fighting in a desert. I understand that this scene was a major precursor to what would happen during the film, but as a person who didn’t really remember all the events of the previous tales in the series, I was kinda lost.
Still, the movie does a decent job of clearing this up very quickly. And yes, there were lots of over-the-top levels of violence that began to break that immersive feeling one should have, but I found it extremely easy to get back into the movie and realize this was just like playing old-school games on my Nintendo.
One last thing I would like to praise is the cinematography. I know I don’t really go into this in many of my reviews, but John Wick: Chapter 4 was so well shot that I have to say something. There were a ton of fast-moving fights. In many films, these mask out errors in the fight choreography or just make it very hard to see who is winning. But the director of cinematography, Dan Laustsen, did an amazing job with framing and not adding extraneous camera movement.
There is one scene near the end of the film where the camera pans up from John Wick to an overhead view inside this rundown apartment complex that is simply the best shot I have ever seen in any film. It made a scene that was already chaotic and exciting into something even more. If Laustsen does not receive an award for this scene alone, there is no justice in the universe.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is a perfect five-out-of-five-star film. It sets a new standard for what action movies should bring to the table. Top Gun: Maverick raised the bar, but John Wick moved it out of reach. Take every action and parody film, then add in every Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row game, throw them into a nitro-powered blender, and the results still would not be close.
It is my blockbuster choice for the summer, even though we are barely into spring. You must get out and watch it, ASAP!