JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 Review: It's Big. Really Big. For JOHN WICK Fans That's Great.

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JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 Review: It's Big. Really Big. For JOHN WICK Fans That's Great.
In his ongoing quest to defeat The High Table, John Wick discovers a way to earn his freedom once and for all. In order to do so he must defeat his most formidable foe yet, a ruthless, high ranking member in the organization with resources, and bodies, to spare. 
Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski reunite once again for a fourth whopping chapter of the widely popular, benchmark setting action series of films. Writer Shay Hatten, having already deepened the lore of this criminal underworld and the High Table with original writer Derek Kolstad in John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum, partners with Michael Finch for this fourth chapter. If you had the sense that The High Table storyline needed to come to a close after Chapter 3 you were not alone. Even the most ardent fans could not help but think, ‘We don’t want this to ever end, but just how many times can Wick go through this?’
With Ballerina on the horizon the Wickiverse will go on after Chapter 4 but even the criminal underworld has only so many hired goons. What does that job posting even look like? Warning. Job comes with the off chance that a disgruntled ex-super assassin harbouring a beef with your employer will come kicking down the door. You can’t let them unionize and demand hazard pay in the event Wick comes knocking at their door. The cost of that comes out of your profits!
Between the amazing set pieces the players speak of loyalty (Winston and Charon have formed a trinity of trust with Wick) and friendship (friendships run deep in the fraternity of deadly assassins as we will see througout the film). Then there is Death. As we all know and take deep delight in, Death follows John Wick wherever he goes. Some say Wick himself is Death. You don’t doubt it when you see him in a black suit on a black horse in the desert, gunning down three other riders on horseback. Death is often potrayed as riding a pale horse, but Wick riding a black horse looks really, fucking cool.
Nor do you doubt it when he shows up in Osaka after that horsebound prologue. When we first see Wick there it is the way he is lit from a profile along with the cut of his beard that makes his face look like a skull. At the Osaka Continental Shimazu's daughter Akira begs him not to take Wick in if he shows up at the hotel. If Wick is not Death wherever he goes it surely follows.
John Wick Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 having been building towards this question? Are you ever really out? When Donnie Yen’s assassin Caine is called back into action he claims that he is retired but a threat on his daughter from Marques gives him no choice but to get back in. If anyone is to live on in his family he would want it to be his daughter. Also, look at The Harbinger, as played by Clancy Brown. He is scarred and missing a finger like Wick. He too must have had to ask for forgiveness and pledge loyalty to The High Table like Wick had to in Chapter 3. Grey and old, it suggests that The Harbinger's been in a long time. He’s just happened to graduate up the ranks, out of active service and into another role within the organization. He is one of the lucky ones. 
Are you ever really free from The High Table? Winston asks John Wick early on, when will it end? Wick answers, when they’re all dead. The players are constantly aware that the only way out is death. Whose and how many is what we will discover in this latest chapter of the Wickiverse. 
Equal to the amount of work and effort that go into each action set pieces the design of the world of John Wick is again top shelf. Credit must be given to Kevin Kavanaugh who has been safeguarding the look of the Wickiverse since the second chapter. Location, location, location. We would love to know how many locations simply exist versus how many were built for this chapter. Nearly every scene with the Marquis is set in a lavish setting, be it some massive former cold war complex bathed in soft, warm light, to golden ballrooms that would make an oligarch blush, and a gallery in the Louvre or a grande theater for a private performance for one. When all our attention is on the action it is proper to take a moment to tip our hat to the production design team. 
The new players include Bill Skarsgård as the Marquis de Gramont. In an interview Skarsgård said, ‘He functions as the new sheriff set out to rid the world of John Wick once and for all’. Marquis serves as the discontented voice of The High Table while enjoying the fruits of the criminal underworld’s collective labor. A man with a mysterious past it is unknown how he’s risen up the ranks of the organization at such a young age. We get a glimpse at his fury though. Early in the movie he makes the point that he is not a man to be trifled with, and an exchange with Tracker concludes with a flash of teeth and an explosion of violence which only confirms his ruthlessness. 
Donnie Yen’s Caine is a former assassin pulled out of retirement by The High Table to deal with Wick. Picking up where he left off with Chirrut in Rogue One Yen is once again playing a blind character. Gods help us if Donnie Yen ever plays a character in a western film that is NOT visually impaired. Yen is an international action superstar so of course he is going to kill the role. It was special to see him have such an important and pivotal role in this chapter; being professional friends with Wick gives extra heft to the role dynamic. Now we have made amends for Yen’s underuse in Blade 2. Yeah, we said it!
Scott Adkins’ Killa is a fun character, part of Wick’s side mission that he must complete in order to get closer to his goal. The role is a show of respect to Adkins for his contribution to the action film industry over the years. We know Adkins wanted to be a part of the Wickiverse since the first film and Stahelski was always trying to figure out a role that would be perfect for him. Three films later Adkins' wish came through and we get to see the fan favorite get his due, landing a high profile role - not just a henchman - in one of his biggest productions yet. Like Yen, it was great to see Adkins in this flick, chewing the scenery and contributing to one of the great brawls in the film with high kicks and heavy fists. It is a smaller role in comparison but boy howdy is it a brawler. 
If the unveiled character posters for this fourth chapter were any indication of the amount of time one is on screen we would have been led to believe that Marko Zaror's henchman, Chidi, was barely in it. Fear not action lovers, for he is Marques' right-hand man so our favorite Chilean action star is always on Wick's tail. While we won't say that he has standout moments his character was a constant, intimidating presence. It was a relief to see him always in the mix.
The other major player in this chapter is Tracker, a freelance agent chasing after Wick and looking to cash in on the growing bounty. Played by Canadian actor Shamier Anderson he is an outlier to this world but no stranger to violence as he has a gun and a canine companion at the ready. You cannot have a John Wick movie without a dog. Having had so much fun with Halle Berry and her two dogs in Chapter 3 we get a lot more of the same throughout Chapter 4. So much biting. So much. From start to finish Tracker is there and his dog has attached itself to some baddie. 
Japanese-British singer Rina Sawayama makes her film debut as Akira, daughter of Shimazu, owner of the Osaka Continental, played by Hiroyuki Sanada. Sanada has more than proven himself adept at action cinema over the years, we do not have to spend much time on him. He’s been great before, he’s great again in this. Such a consistent actor and as expected a terrific action actor here as well. Sawayama despairs at the gravity of Wick’s presence in Osaka, she understands what this means. She is one of the first to tell him that wherever he goes death follows. And when the battle breaks out she is right in the mix, bow and knife in hand. You see her stand-out moment in the trailer, plunging knives into the back of a thug over and over again as they crawl up a flight of stairs. In the heat and excitement of this first all-out battle it was easy to lose track of where she was and where her stunt doubles replaced her. That’s the magic of cinema. 
On to the action itself, because this is why we go and see a John Wick movie. The set pieces keep getting bigger and longer. On our first screening we can see that we will need repeat viewings, to be able to pick out more bits and pieces that we had missed in the excitement of this first viewing. But yes. Yes!!! The set pieces in John Wick films continue to set the bar for action cinema. Chapter 4 gleefully continues the winning streak set by the first film. 
The prologue is a small car chase with horses that exists to remind everyone of Wick’s ongoing beef with The High Table. The action really picks up in the first major set piece, The Battle at the Osaka Continental.
This massive set piece sets the tone of the movie. It’s big. Much bigger than anything before it. It is our first opportunity to see Donnie Yen and Marko Zaror in action as well. We will say with the utmost certainty that Yen’s character Caine (because he’s blind… and needs a cane… huh? Huh!?!) will be regarded as the best villain of the entire franchise. His unconventional approach to detecting nearby foes is pretty awesome. Side note: Caine is Hebrew for battle or fighter, derived from the Irish Gaelic word cathan. See? You can be entertained by heroic bloodshed and still learn something. The opening foray also serves as a reminder that traditional weapons like swords and arrows still get the job done and hurt like fuck. We’ve all seen Wick give a taste of the nun-chucks in the trailer, they’re so good later in this fight. 
The Fight at the Berlin Club is pretty much a side mission, albeit an important one, for Wick that features Scott Adkins. As each film grows in size, so does the size of each club continue to get bigger and bigger with each chapter. This one apparently took over some old Cold War complex and features a ridiculous number of waterfalls. Fights under waterfalls look awesome, shut up! You also have to love the action trope of nightclubs where partygoers are completely oblivious to the carnage around them to a certain point. The mele between Wick and Killa is a bruiser though and boils down to high kicks and hard fists being thrown at each other with Jujitsu grappling thrown into the foray. 
The action moves to Paris, The City of Fights … … What’s that? … Lights? Are you sure? No John Wick film would be complete without a little bit of car action and the fight that breaks out around the famed Arc de Triumphe is pretty great. Part car chase and part gun battle everyone is dodging both bullets and cars. We lose some of the… wait for it… impact of the scene with so much going on around all the players. Definitely one of the scenes that are going to benefit from repeat viewings. 
For us, the gunfight in an abandoned building is the personal highlight of the whole film. As Wick gets nearer to his objective before a certain time the call goes out for everyone and anyone to try and stop him. Cue the getting-kitted-out montages which feature loading Dragon's Breath rounds into shotguns. We loved this fight not just because it is a close-quarters gunfight but it quickly became a personal favorite because it's shot overhead. A room-to-room shootout with bursts of flame reaching out to each thug, not just killing them but setting them on fire as well. Just in case the buckshot did not do its job. The scene was reminiscent of shots we remember seeing in DePalma's Snake Eyes and Speilberg's Minority Report - but longer and deadlier. And the cheeky buggers Chad Stahelski and his DOP Dan Laustsen did it fucking twice. They brought the camera down to floor level and before you can say, that was cool, they take it right back up again for more. It was amazing!
The final fight and third part of The Battle of Paris happens on a seemingly endless flight of stairs. It sort of turns into a final boss stage, almost like Bruce Lee climbing the levels of the pagoda in Game of Death. It is nearly like it. Wick climbs and climbs, shoots and shoots, grapples and grapples, stair by stair. After all the breathtaking action we could ever hope for there is a moment of relief that comes and solicits a laugh at its absurdity. It is one last big shootout and a chance to catch our breath before the fate-determining duel at the top of the hill. 
The climactic duel determines the fate of John Wick and we will not go into any great detail because this is for the fans of John Wick, those of us who have been there since the beginning. This is the end that John Wick seeks so that he will be free of The High Table once and for all. This is for all you fans to experience on your own. 
The John Wick franchise has never been about whether will he or won’t achieve his goal; it's always been about how. How he does it and how many foes he will have to go through to do it. As action fans we are tremendously forgiving and patient with any thin or laborious storytelling when we’re given such an embarrassment of riches in the set pieces. If you’re coming into the Wickiverse fresh with Chapter 4, where the hell have you been? And you probably should have gone back to the first film and eased your way into the dearth of storytelling that way. As we said, we’re tremendously forgiving of Chapter 4’s size because there is so much goodness throughout.   
The story of John Wick needed to wrap up by the end of this fourth film. We could all sense it. Stahelski and the writers likely knew their time was up with this one and had to cram in more than usual to bring about a close to the story of John Wick. As you can tell, there is a lot to say about this final chapter, this turned out to be an essay than a concise review of the film. But there was so much to talk about and enthusiasm for this film took over the word count. All that’s left to say is…
That’ll do Wick, that’ll do. 

John Wick: Chapter 4

  • Chad Stahelski
  • Shay Hatten
  • Michael Finch
  • Derek Kolstad
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Donnie Yen
  • Bill Skarsgård
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John WickKeanu ReevesLance ReddickChad StahelskiShay HattenMichael FinchDerek KolstadDonnie YenBill SkarsgårdActionCrimeThriller

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