JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 review by Mark Walters – Keanu Reeves is thinking he’s back… again

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 review by Mark Walters – Keanu Reeves is thinking he’s back… again

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM was a big hit in theaters in 2019, and a fourth installment was inevitable… until Covid hit. But we’re finally getting JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4, hitting theaters this weekend. Chad Stahelski is back in the director chair, and Keanu Reeves is back along with his MATRIX buddy Laurence Fishburne, plus the late Lance Reddick and Ian McShane. Joining the action this time is Donnie Yen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Bill Skarsgård, Scott Adkins, Rina Sawayama, Shamier Anderson, Marko Zaror, and Clancy Brown. Is this fourth outing the best yet, or just more of the same? Perhaps both, for better or worse.

At the end of JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM, The Continental manager Winston (McShane) apparently shot John Wick (Reeves), causing him to fall off the roof of the (usually) safe haven hotel. Now let’s face it, if Wick died then and there, we wouldn’t have much of a sequel to watch, so of course he ain’t dead. The new film opens with Wick going after members of “The Table” who he thinks are responsible for wanting him dead, but we soon learn there’s a new guy in charge named Marquis (Skarsgård), and his first act in the wake of Wick’s carnage is to destroy The Continental, and force Winston to serve him now. He also hires a blind assassin named Caine (Yen) to go after Wick, who is running out of places to safely hide. There’s also a new freelance assassin called Tracker (Shamier Anderson), accompanied by a loyal attack dog, who might be yet another threat for Wick, depending on who is paying and how much. With The Table constantly coming down on our unlikely hero, does John Wick have any hope left in the world to survive and find peace?

While the first JOHN WICK movie was a story of revenge and an assassin coming out of retirement, the sequels have largely consisted of John constantly being on the run while seemingly endless hitmen aggressively come after him. And that’s fine, as it’s usually hyper-violent fun with great stunts and tough guy machismo… almost like a throwback to 1980s and 90s tough guy flicks. The first film was a modest one hour and 41 minutes long, CHAPTER 2 was a hair over two hours, and CHAPTER 3 was two hours and 10 minutes… CHAPTER 4 is almost three hours long, and at times it really feels it. I usually love these films, and there is a lot to enjoy in this newest installment, but there are definitely moments where the proceedings seem excessive or just exhausting. Some may recall the final fight scene in CHAPTER 3 going on and on to an almost ridiculous degree, ultimately delivering a satisfying payoff. In CHAPTER 4, it feels like every fight scene does that, just endless fighting and carnage that comes dangerously close to being too much of a good thing. There’s one particular fight toward the end of the film that involves John having to brutally battle his way up a very lengthy set of stairs to get to his destination at the top, and when he gets there he’s hit so hard that he falls all the way down to the bottom of those stairs, and must basically start over his journey to the top. Now again, it’s exciting watching him do it, but it also really pushes the boundaries of realism even more than normal in these movies.

And to some extent, we’ve kind of seen all this stuff already in the other JOHN WICK movies, there’s nothing shockingly new of revolutionary on display here. Whether it’s John riding a horse while shooting bad guys, or John driving a doorless car through a busy street while shooing bad guys, or John violently fighting his way through a nightclub as techno music blasts in the background, we’ve sort of been there and done that. There is one particularly fun scene involving Wick fighting a portly crime boss played by the great Scott Adkins in a fat suit, which at least offers us a unique-looking fight between two very different body types, and a very technically impressive sequence with John having a shootout in an old house shot from an overhead view following him into each room… oh, and a wincingly fun scene involving nunchucks (hard to believe those haven’t popped up in these movies before). But most of the other moments just seem like more of the same stuff we’ve already seen, and at times feel almost tedious. I actually would have enjoyed more dialogue scenes, or perhaps a better bit of background given on The Table organization that is still so mysterious… or, ya know, just slightly shorter fights.

One thing these JOHN WICK movies excel at is casting, and the ensemble this time is terrific. Laurence Fishburne is stellar as always, though I wish he had been in it even more than what we got, and Ian McShane gets a meatier role this time around which is nice. Sadly, Lance Reddick, who just recently passed away rather unexpectedly, has a smaller role in this outing, and fans of his and the franchise should be warned there is a scene that will likely be a bit disturbing now considering his real life passing… it’s unfortunate to be honest, though we will apparently see him as the Charon character again soon in the spinoff movie BALLERINA. One of the best new additions here is Donnie Yen as Caine, an old friend of John’s now tasked with killing him, but a man who has his own demons and tragic motivations. I also loved seeing the wonderful Hiroyuki Sanada in a memorable role, and Rina Sawayama is terrific playing his daughter. Bill Skarsgård plays the main baddie here, and does his best to be formidable, but doesn’t ever seem like that threatening of a presence considering what we’ve seen John Wick go up against before. I can’t decide if I liked Shamier Anderson’s freelance assassin character, though I would like to see more of him in potentially future installments – his dog was awesome. It’s also great seeing Clancy Brown in the mix as one of The Table’s assessors. Then there’s Keanu, who is always impressive in these films, doing the majority of his own stunts in plain view of the camera, but here he seems a bit more tired that normal. Granted, Wick as a character has to be exhausted at this point, so if the actor is drained by playing him, it actually fits the story this time around.

If you like the JOHN WICK movies, chances are you’ll enjoy enough of what’s on display here to where you’ll forgive the bits that are a little wonky. And the only annoying part of the film for me was the lengthy run time, though I’m betting the ending will be divisive for some, and it does make me wonder what the future of the franchise could possibly be now. Reeves has stated in interviews for this film that when you love a character this much, there’s always “a little more” to give it, so it will be interesting to see if John Wick returns yet again, perhaps after a decade or so giving time for him to work on a few other projects. Make sure to stick around after the credits for a stinger scene that might just hint toward the next possible film for this franchise.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 opens March 24, 2023

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.