Several years ago, a hitman was thrust back into a life of crime after a privileged thug killed his puppy and made off with his car. A deceptively simple story, but thanks to the indelible charm of Keanu Reeves, the talents of visionary director Chad Stahelski, dozens of beautifully choreographed fight scenes, and imaginative world-building, John Wick has become one hell of a franchise.
While the first film was a pure revenge flick, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 – Parabellum, dealt with the repercussions of Mr. Wick’s re-emergence and retaliation for breaking the rules of this heavily-regulated underworld. In Chapter 4, John has recovered from injuries he suffered from the betrayal of Winston (Ian McShane) while plotting vengeance against The Table, a mysterious syndicate that lives and dies by the codes they construct.
A wanted man with a multi-million bounty on his head, John is in a bit of a precarious situation. The Table is fed up with his shenanigans and places all their formidable power into the hands of Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), a high ranking member of the Order who was given carte blanche power to eliminate the notorious Baba Yaga (John’s nickname). The Marquis brings Wick’s one-time friend Caine (the outstanding Donnie Yen) out of retirement to help “handle” the situation and thanks to the massive bounty, it also attracts the interest of a “tracker” known as Nobody (Shamier Anderson). In an effort to clear his name and leave “the life,” John needs to jump through hoops so he can properly challenge the Marquis.
The world of John Wick is hypnotic, with a complex network of Prada-clad thugs, bejeweled hoodlums, and tatted-up bombshells who keep the underground organization running like a well-oiled machine. Chapter 4 dives a bit deeper into the global network as the series takes us to France, Germany, and Japan.
As Wick turns hundreds of nameless thugs into hamburger meat, the movie manages to pay homage to action pics of yesteryear, including classic wuxia films from Asian cinema, Yen’s own Ip Man, and Walter Hill’s The Warriors. There’s even a few Matrix references thrown in for good measure. Classic films are also conjured through the casting, as cinematic legends Yen and Hiroyuki Sanada, as well as Highlander baddy Clancy Brown, add their street cred to the mix. The massive fighting sequences make up a bulk of the 169-minute runtime. The length might push the audience into fatigue, but the set pieces, especially those in Osaka and Paris, keep the death toll interesting.
Fueled by the soundtrack of Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard, things move at a brisk pace. Blink and you might miss five altercations and several decapitations. Reeves only speaks a handful of words throughout the entire film, but John Wick was never known for his conversational skills and watching him handle the elaborate choreography needed for the constant brawls is almost akin to Baryshnikov handling a Grand Jete.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is far from a perfect movie. It often breaks the convoluted rules it works so hard to establish while seemingly operating under the guise of a savage Looney Tunes cartoon– Wick can fall off of a building and walk it off. It’s almost surprising that some goon didn’t drop a large anvil emblazoned with the word “ACME” off the Eiffel Tower. But this isn’t a think piece and it’s not trying to win prestigious awards for writing or making a statement about society. It’s goofy, gritty fun for people who take great pleasure watching shotgun executions, elaborate car chases, and murder attempts via playing cards and pencils. The film’s runtime is probably its greatest flaw, but watching Wick and Yen battle it out is well worth the price of admission.
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