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John Wick: Chapter 4

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

John Wick has saved the best for last.

An absolute action masterpiece that shoots, stabs, and drives its way into my all-time Top 10, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 is perfection.

We’ve come a long way from the first installment. Chapter 4 opens with returning director Chad Stahelski channeling David Lean. “Lawrence of Arabia” fans will love that rising sun and the slowly emerging four men on horseback. It turns out to be John Wick riding the horse like he drives a car, shooting at the three men ahead of him galloping across the desert.

The photography is pure homage to Lean, but it’s not the last director he’ll pay silent reverence to, or at least as silent as things get when every gunshot pounds through you in full tilt Dolby Cinema glory.

It seems that there is no way out for Wick and his death sentence from the High Table unless he can vanquish the powerful new Blofeld of our piece, the Marquis, played by Bill Skarsgard with serious menace. Hell, he’s almost scarier here than in his role as Pennywise the Clown in “It”.

And that’s saying something.

Skarsgard is polished Euro uber-riche, wearing a million-dollar wardrobe and a feverish desire to take out Wick. He starts laying waste to everyone who’s every befriended our man, John.

That list is loaded with great actors including Ian McShane as Winston, the manager of the Continental Manhattan and his concierge Charon, perfectly played by Lance Reddick, who just passed away last week.

Hiroyuki Sanada (Avengers: Endgame, Bullet Train) is flawless and powerful as Shimazu, the manager of the Osaka Continental and his daughter Akira (Rina Sawayama) is his concierge. The Osaka hotel is one of the first places John goes and the Marquis soon arrives with a massive death squad to take him out.

The fight sequence, ok let’s call it a battle sequence that takes place is one of the best action sequences in film since The Bride took on the Crazy 88’s in “Kill Bill”. It’s thrilling, violent, creative and jaw dropping. But don’t get too excited because Reeves and Stahelski will top it at least twice in the nearly three-hour film.

The legendary Donnie Yen (The Ip Man film series, Rogue One) joins the cast as Caine, a blind assassin and friend of Wick who’s now been assigned to kill him. Yen brings such gravitas to the screen every time he’s on it, it’s astonishing.

Clancy Brown (Carnivale, Highlander) is a great add as Harbinger and Shamier Anderson (Destroyer) is excellent as Tracker, a hitman with a dog at his side that comes in very handy dealing with the bad buys. Tracker may be on Wick’s trail, but he’s not of the mind to kill him until the bounty is high enough to warrant his attention.

The film hops brilliantly from New York City to Osaka, to Paris and to Berlin for major sequences that are part of Wick’s quest for revenge and release. The $90 million budget looks like at least twice that and the photography by Dan Laustsen (The Shape of Water, Nightmare Alley) bathes everything in rain, blood and sweat.

Several sequences push this incredible thriller into my top 10. Wick’s faceoff against Killa (Scott Adkins in a superb fat suit) in a nightclub is surprising, brilliantly staged, and relentless. I’ve never seen a hero take this much punishment and get back up. It’s hilarious and thrilling.

It’s followed by Wick facing off hundreds of hit men trying to collect a $26 million bounty on his head. Wick enters an old/dilapidated French chateau and he’s met by killers in every room. Moments into the sequence, the camera takes us up into the air and looks down into the rooms from above, following Wick as he kills hitman after hitman with every weapon imaginable. It’s an obvious homage to Brian De Palma, with one impossibly long continuous shot. The camera then slides back down to eye level as the mayhem continues, looks up a stairwell and then slides effortlessly to the bird’s eye view again as Wick and Tracker face off in a brutal battle against each other and the hit squad. It’s jaw dropping.

Is there a better action sequence in the film? Debatably, yes.

John Wick drives a muscle car the wrong way into the multi-lane roundabout circling the Arc de Triomphe, with a dozen cars chasing him. Every car has 3 or 4 hitmen shooting at once. Wick is throw from the car and fights hand to hand combat for five minutes against hundreds of assassins. I lost count on how many bodies got hit by cars and thrown through the air. If I’d had a chance to think, I might have wondered why traffic never stopped. But the flow of cars never stops or slows down, creating the most lethal game of human frogger you’ve ever witnessed. It’s brilliant. Just when you think it’s over, Wick grabs a motorcycle, and the chase continues.

The final showdown is a clever finale, reverting back to a mano-a-mano fight that serves up plenty of Sergio Leone vibes, right down to the music and the long takes.

The screenplay by Shay Hatten and Michael Finch gets a lot right. These two should write the next James Bond film. The dialogue is great, the characters are well defined and plenty of emotion and personal drama lives between the action.

The last decade of “Mission Impossible” and “John Wick” films set the standard for franchise filmmaking. Every film gets better than the last. You can’t say that about Marvel movies, you sure as hell can’t say that about OO7 films.

Keanu Reeves deserves praise for creating a modern man-with-no-name character. The fact that he’s still doing this kind of stunt work at 58 years old is incredible.

JOHN WICK 4 is fantastic. It’s 169 minutes of action thriller nirvana that gets an A+ and a fresh spot in my all-time Top 10 favorite films.

It’s bloody brilliant.

Just don’t ask John Wick to climb any more stairs. Please. No more stairs!

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