John Wick: Chapter 4 Movie Review
John Wick: Chapter 4 Movie Review Metadata
The thing about John Wick movies is you never have to wonder what you’re going to get. John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023), or simply JW4, is a high-octane travelogue of subterfuge, slaughter, and single combat.
Since the end of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, John (Keanu Reeves) has been busy. Since he can’t secure his place at the High Table, he’s set about eliminating every member of the High Table he can find. This is of great distress to the High Table, so the Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) assumes the role of executioner and vows to eliminate Wick himself. To flush him out, the Marquis sends the Harbinger (Clancy Brown) to visit every Continental Wick may have gained assistance from and “decommissions” them – this means the Managers are stripped of their positions and the hotels are literally demolished. If citations and demo permits mean nothing to the Marquis and the High Table, you know they’ll stop at nothing to see John Wick dead. The Marquis then ups the contract by increments, which in retrospect just seems a very efficient way to remove the poorly-skilled players from the field.
The Marquis also employs former and current assassins by way of favors and blackmail, because as we’ve learned, even assassins have people they love and don’t want murdered. One of these assassins is Caine (Donnie Yen) who enjoys listening to his daughter busk by violin in the city parks. Since he does not want her unalived, and despite the fact that he’s “retired” (oh, and blind), Caine accepts the special assignment to kill John Wick or listen to his daughter tortured and murdered.
John has a way out of this, of course, and it requires more travel, more torture, more clandestine meetings, and lots more shooting. It all culminates in a duel at dawn and a city full of low-rent assassins and Marquis men to mow through. There’s a clever little hat tip to the 1979 dystopian gang-war action flick, The Warriors as John Wick is tracked through the City of Lights by way of a High Table DJ and carefully curated songs.
If you’re wondering where the dog is in all of this, we have to assume it’s in a doggy daycare, because Wick is traveling light. Since there must be a dog somewhere or people riot in the streets, there’s a new player in this game waiting for a very specific contract number. Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson) has a dog, a very sweet, Belgian Malinois-looking dog who has no name but likes to go for the nuts and berries before going for the throat. Winston (Ian McShane) is Winston, whose loyalties remain only to himself, at least until those he cares about are grievously injured.
Every John Wick movie introduces new characters that highlight the dark and disparate (imaginary) world of Murder for Hire. The polite elegance of the Continental Osaka, the thumping industrial nightlife in the German underground lair of Killa (Scott Adkins), the dimly lit theatrical catacombs of the Ruska Roma, traveling the world as an assassin certainly gains you your passport stamps. Eventually though, you kinda just want to go home.
At 164 minutes – that’s 2 hours and 44 minutes for the mathematically challenged, John Wick: Chapter 4 may seem like an absolutely exciting frolic seeing so much gunplay, hand-to-hand, and crotch-ripping combat nearly four years out from Chapter 3 – but be careful what you wish for. While the story itself had plenty of meat and potatoes, the filler courses of Gun Fu are a lot to chew on. If I have a complaint, and I may have a few, some of the fight scenes just dragged, and you’d think with experienced assassins, it would have been over much sooner. Granted this time around everyone wore Kevlar-this and armor-plated-that, but you would have expected some ricochet casualties. They go on and on, even when everyone should be dead. It’s just…overkill. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)
This, by the way, is not an invitation for anyone to write John Wick: Chapter 5 –Raccoon City.
There is enough exposition to keep track of who is killing whom and why, and it adds to the intricate tapestry of the interconnected criminal underworld. The introduction of High Table closer and arbitrator, The Harbinger was a classy touch, the fleshed-out nearly-analog headquarters of The Administration makes me want to create a mood board for the pink uniforms of the Accountants and Operators, and there are still cities throughout the underworld I’d love to see the inside of – the Continental Bolivia, Continental Sudan, Continental Johannesburg, etc. I just want it dialed back to something less frenetic. I’m not saying more dialogue, no sense in ruining a perfectly good action franchise, but can’t we kill just as many people in 30 fewer minutes?
I’d bet a case of gold coins we probably can.
While the closing moments of John Wick: Chapter 4 may leave some questions as to the continuing adventures of John and his perpetually broken ribs, we already know there is an upcoming Ballerina (starring Ana de Armas), and John Wick: Chapter 5 is still (theoretically) happening. After all, we didn’t hear a no from producer Chad Stahelski at SXSW 2023, so I can pin my hopes on that.
John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) is Rated R because lots of people swear and die, and not necessarily in that order. Highlights include people getting shot, stabbed, garroted, immolated, mauled, bludgeoned, hit by cars, and dropped down stairs, through holes in floors and off buildings.