By Jack Deegan
What started as a vengeance against animal cruelty has blossomed into a full-blown universe full of assassins around every corner. For nearly a decade, the “John Wick” franchise has been continually raising the bar for action in movies. After much anticipation, the newest installment to the series is here, promising to raise the stakes once more for the legendary hitman.
Looking for revenge against the High Table after Winston’s (Ian McShane) shocking betrayal, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) seeks out powerful allies in the underworld to try and take them down and regain his freedom.
I have been excited about this sequel ever since the third film’s cliffhanger ending. After nearly four years, it’s finally here. The “John Wick” franchise is one of my favorites and has never let me down. With each installment getting crazier than the last, I had high hopes. Thankfully, my hope was not misplaced as I can confidently say this is one of the greatest action movies ever made.
I don’t think action in film is ever going to get better than this. With these movies, there is a certain expectation of violence that you won’t see anywhere else. It’s the franchise’s biggest draw and a guarantee you’ll see something you never have before. Somehow, the team managed to surpass all that I thought possible to deliver a truly special experience.
The combat in this movie is thrilling in every sense. The franchise’s trademark gun-fu (a style of sophisticated close-quarters gunfight resembling a martial arts battle that combines firearms with hand-to-hand combat) is elevated to a whole new level, showing some perfectly choreographed action that feels real. The takes are longer with more violence on display than ever before. Director Chad Stahelski brings so much creativity to every fight in the movie. The inventiveness in the film’s action is incredibly exciting. From nun-chucks to car combat, the action never lets up and brings so much variety in each scene. Keanu Reeves reportedly did 90% of his own stunts in the film, and it shows.
The stunt team as a whole deserves a lot of appreciation for this movie. The majority of this movie is showcasing some of the most impressive stunts in the entire industry. The fight choreography is complex and long, but on top of that, it’s also taking place in some very unique locations. In every scene, the performers are doing everything they can to bring these challenging ideas to life. They’re putting their bodies on the line falling down hundreds of stairs in some cases and deserve just as much recognition as anyone else.
The quest for vengeance not only brings us around the world to new locations, but it takes the story in some very unexpected directions. What could have been a standard revenge story is given layers as John looks to dismantle the system as a whole. They explore the themes of changing one’s nature and finding peace through John’s history of violence, which gives him a cathartic character arc.
Within a three-hour movie, it can be hard to maintain the audience’s attention. Whenever you start to feel the film’s runtime, they pull out something crazy to reel you back in and keep you on the edge of your seat. While the length story is the weakest part of the movie, it is in no way bad and is very well written. There are some very bold choices made that I really wasn’t expecting, but paid off very well. New allies and enemies are introduced and do a great job enriching the world of assassins and keeping things fresh.
The iconic Donnie Yen plays Caine, the antagonistic addition to the universe, who gives a scene-stealing performance. Brought in by Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) of the High Table, he is forced to kill his old friend John Wick to protect his daughter. Not only does he serve as a foil for John, but he’s also a fully-fledged character in his own right. His action stands out amongst everything else because Caine is a blind man and has a noticeably different fighting style than everyone else. This makes for some really fun and creative action scenes.
Another great addition to the franchise is Mr. Nobody, played by Shamier Anderson. His character is a tracker who wants to kill John Wick for the $14 million dollar bounty, but will only do it under specific circumstances that I won’t spoil. The dynamic he has with John is very exciting and is fun to watch develop over the course of the movie. And if that didn’t sell you, he also has an adorable attack dog at his side.
Reeves is great as always. Despite John Wick being very stoic and quiet, he does a fantastic job in the role. With so much rage and revenge to dish out, he’s very good and showing that with his actions and body language. With the little words he speaks, his delivery is always perfect and sells the emotion just right. His dedication to not only acting but doing the vast majority of his stunts is commendable. It’s easy to see how much he cares about this role as he puts that passion into what he does best: killing people with household objects and saying, “yeah.”
From a technical perspective, this is a masterpiece. It’s an excellent example of over-the-top maximalism in film that makes it hard to look away. Every scene is drenched in moody neon and bright colors that flood into the frame and paint a gorgeous picture. It has some of the best cinematography of the last few years with more breathtaking shots than I can count.
Stahelski has come into his own as a director in this movie. The camera moves in the flashiest way to capture as much of the action as possible. Car chase scenes are already hard enough to shoot, but adding in action makes them near impossible. The amount of effort that goes into capturing these shots in a cohesive and beautiful way is beyond impressive. There’s one scene in particular that is shot from a top-down perspective, and it blew my mind.
Overall, “John Wick: Chapter 4” is going to go down as one of the greatest action movies in film history. It continues the saga in the most satisfying way while upping the ante in every category. It’s not often that movies this special and unique come around, and I cannot recommend seeing it enough. A three-hour epic filled with exciting action, stunning camera work and dogs. What’s not to love?