John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)
John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)

Genre: Action Running Time: 2 hrs. 49 min.

Release Date: March 24th, 2023 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Chad Stahelski Actors: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Ian McShane, Bill Skarsgard, Laurence Fishburne, Shamier Anderson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama, Lance Reddick, Natalia Tena, Marko Zaror, Clancy Brown

 


 

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espite the High Table sending hundreds of mercenaries to eliminate master assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves), the ghost-like gunman still lives. When his remaining few allies, including Continental Hotel managers Winston Scott (Ian McShane) and Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada) and their respective concierges Charon (Lance Reddick) and Akira (Rina Sawayama), are attacked and excommunicated, Wick knows he has little time left to find a solution to his conflict with this guild of endless resources. When his crusade of vengeance afflicts more and more of their members, the High Table assigns the ruthless Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard) to handle the matter. As the bodies continue to pile up, the Marquis opts to employ both a highly-skilled Tracker (Shamier Anderson) and the blind swordsman Caine (Donnie Yen) – one of Wick’s closest friends from the past – to put a stop to the one-man army.

“You ready, John?” Wick is apparently stuck being Wick forever, which means that while he’s going about his killing routines, he’s also impeccably dressed in black (he even rides a black stallion when he isn’t driving a black car), remains a man of few words, and possesses unlimited magazines of cartridges. What he lacks in verbosity, he makes up for with bullets (and heaps of violence).

Once again, the plot revolves around the Table, the governing body of an international assassin cadre, which needlessly complicates the villain hierarchy from movie to movie. But it does provide an inexhaustible source of bad guys (perhaps like James Bond’s nemesis SPECTRE) – limitless people for Wick to slaughter, much like the nameless, faceless soldier henchmen he dispatches in waves. “I’m going to kill them all.”

The primary selling point is martial arts action, here relying yet again on hand-to-hand combat, stabbing weapons, and all manner of firearms. The addition of nunchakus, axes, and arrows brings about a modicum of creativity, but the overkill stays the same; there’s really not a lot of ways to avoid repetition when hordes of gun-toting, armored troopers are shot down or hacked up during every altercation – of which there are countless. A considerable portion of “John Wick: Chapter 4” looks and feels like a video game; the action sequences are oftentimes designed more like a game than a film, not just with certain cinematographic shots but also with the main character peering around corners to target enemies. Nevertheless, the majority of stunts are astounding (set in ever more visually engaging locations, visualized through cutting-edge camerawork), though the choreographers are unable to completely avoid brief, disappointing CG augmentation. And to further supplement the kung fu are bits of humor (Ian McShane is almost entirely comic relief now), though most of these moments also highlight the incongruous nature of the lead’s invincibility (no matter how many times he falls from great heights or gets battered by cars, he quickly rights himself and continues his whirlwind of fists) – which is where it deviates from the heavier-hitting qualities of the far more convincing and absorbing “The Raid 2.”

If Wick is a dependable antihero, he’s deserving of a proper archenemy. Unfortunately, Donnie Yen’s Zatoichi ripoff is too gimmicky to be believable – even in a world in which Wick is single-handedly better than everyone else at fighting, regardless of age, size, physicality, and weaponry. Caine’s blindness may not affect close-quarters sword-clashing, but it definitely shouldn’t allow him to dodge bullets, especially when discharged from hundreds of feet away. At least some of the other brutes are more fitting, as the series leans toward “Dick Tracy” or “Sin City” with its scarred, deformed, idiosyncratic goons for boss-fights.

Ultimately, however, the premise is still too simple for this colossal running time (about ten minutes shy of three hours); four movies in and the writers have run out of stuff for Wick’s character to do, other than rack up an enormous body count. As much as the picture doesn’t want to be more of the same, it’s exactly that – killing and more killing, sometimes more or less bloodthirsty, sometimes with or without vehicles and amplified firepower, but always without police interference, physical fatigue, and fully spent ammunition. It may have gotten so very far away from the basic concept of avenging a murdered dog, but its attempts to expand beyond that only drag out the downtime between the action, stretching thin a tired, flimsy plot. And at this point, what will “John Wick: Chapter 5” have to offer? A 4-hour duration?

– The Massie Twins

  • 4/10