John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)

Directed by Chad Stahelski; Written by Shay Hatten, Michael Finch and Derek Kolstad

Over its almost-three-hour long runtime, John Wick, super assassin played by Keanu Reeves, slaughters half a criminal empire using guns, blunt instruments, sharp objects, his body, and a errant car or two as he fights, flees, fights some more, takes his licks, and carries on against the nebulous consortium that rules the underworld.

Yet, it’s you who’ll feel like you’re putting in work as you sit through John Wick: Chapter 4, the culmination to a saga that started as a modest revenge tale, but now has turned into a globe-spanning epic as Wick defies the odds with dream-logic superpowers.  

There’s just so much of everything to the point of being ostentatious. The amount of carnage, the ever-expanding mythology, the faceless henchmen and henchmen with faces who (ostensibly) have a purpose for being there, the fights, chase scenes, explosions, and whatever else Stahelski can pack into the story. 

This is the plot that has to fit it all: Wick looks to end his rampage against the leaders of organized crime, the so-called Table, by taking on its primary henchman, the Marquis, a sort of judge-jury-executioner who’s given extraordinary power to bring Wick to heel. It’s a 40 oz. bottle trying to hold a gallon of jet fuel in a story simply overrun with spectacle, the mayhem spilling out everywhere and none of it stays with you.   

A simple plot isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The first film was similarly barebones, and it was spectacular, but the laser-focused direction seems almost modest now in comparison. I’ve never seen writing so slavishly devoted to the action on-screen, so reduced to only set up more action-sequences. You can say some scenes are to expand the already bloated universe, but the lack of work in trying to flesh out characters or explain the order of things makes this feel like a poor excuse. 

But you almost can’t blame Stahelski and his co-creators, because the John Wick-films have been the best action in the world of cinema since the first film dropped almost 10 years ago, so it’s not surprising they want to do more of what they do well. Chapter 4 doesn’t buck the trend.

The choreography, the inventiveness, the ferocity of the stunts is spectacular, and one long sequence shot from overhead is the closest action films will get to Hollywood Golden Age musical composition and choreography. Keanu Reeves’ work as Wick as the linchpin of it all will immortalize him as the standout action star of this period. If thrilling action is what you want, then you can’t go wrong.

Despite the simple story and inevitability of Wick’s journey, Chapter 4 isn’t a film you can just let wash over you. It beats you into submission with its incessant carnage, and its onslaught of wreckage and accompanying sounds. 

In reviewing Transformers: The Last Knight, Bilge Ebiri summed up the experience as one long stream of demolition derby noise, the input so dense and chaotic it became something akin to doomsday radio static. Chapter 4 attains the same level of onomatopoeic hellscape, where the pew-pew-pews, crashes, thumps, whomps, ka-thunks, smacks, and ra-ta-tas become overwhelming. 

It really is great action, but crazy as it sounds, it’s almost an action movie for advanced watchers who have built up a tolerance for the overload of havoc and bare minimum of narrative to guide it along. The internet has made a big deal of Reeves only saying 380 words for the entirety of the movie, and it’s meant to be a badge of honor. He kills about the same number of men. That should tell you all there is to know about John Wick: Chapter 4.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s