JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 (2023)
Release Date: 03/24/23 [In Cinemas]
Genre: Action. Crime. Thriller.
"John Wick uncovers a path to defeating The High Table. But before he can earn his freedom, Wick must face off against a new enemy with powerful alliances across the globe and forces that turn old friends into foes."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
John Wick: Chapter 4 is a perfect finale to the “Chapter” trilogy of John Wick. From a technical perspective, it’s unmatched. Director Chad Stahelski has created a finale that pulls from the best parts of everything that preceded Chapter 4, remixing elements into something new and masterful. Editor Nathan Orloff makes a 170-minute film fly by. Every action beat, every cut, is more pristine and intentional than that which came before. Cinematographer Dan Lausten has continued to one-up his own work from the past entries; neon lights are no stranger to John Wick, but warm tones have been largely absent till now. This warmth makes John Wick: Chapter 4 more nostalgic than any of its successors. Chapter 4 utilizes the cinematic language far more than any of the entries before it; pop song needle-drops present a shift away from the EDM needle-drops present in John Wick, but its score is deliberately infused with those EDM elements we know and love in the franchise. Musicians Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard transformed the score of Wick too; the score is composed of an orchestra infused with the electronic sound of John Wick.
Of course, each of these elements pale in comparison to the action set pieces on display throughout the film. John Wick is the action franchise of the twenty-first century; it’s formed a niche as the martial arts movies in the west, and it’s the most important element of the series. John Wick: Chapter 4, is no different in this manner; each action set piece aims to stun the audience. Whether it’s the shootout in Osaka or the chase through Paris, the action is constantly evolving in intense and varied ways. Fight Choreographer Laurent Demianoff pulls no punches this time; each sequence consistently is building on what came before. That applies both to the moment to moment fights, as well as the previous setpieces in the franchise. John Wick: Chapter 4 takes the best moments from the films that came before and infuses them into it’s sequences. The club sequence from John Wick inspires the club sequence in John Wick: Chapter 4. The Osaka shootout, and the opening chase are adjacent to the fights throughout John Wick: Chapter 3. The catacombs shootout in John Wick: Chapter 2 finds new life in the building shootout in Paris, and the car shootout from Chapter 2 is also an inspiration to Chapter 4. And yet, each of the fights in John Wick: Chapter 4 aren’t derivative. It’s full of new life, as new challengers change the flow of each and every sequence.
Speaking of the new challengers, the expanded cast for John Wick: Chapter 4 is yet again fantastic. Clancy Brown is great in the role of a Harbinger, the justice arm of the High Table. His presence feels heavy, despite the calm demeanor of the character. Chidi (Marko Zaror) is an elite henchman of the high table, and Zaror leans into his confidence, both in negotiation sequences, and in the fights. Scott Adkins is the club owning gangster Killa, and leans into the charming yet intimidating character effectively. Rina Sawayama is great in the role of Akira, and lends credibility to the emotional arc of Akira. These newcomers are great, but the best performances are from Bill Skarsgård, Shamier Anderson, and Donnie Yen. Skarsgård is menacing as the frenchman Marquis. His overly formal line reading and impulsive outbursts of anger and violence make him a cunning and horrifying antagonist for John. Anderson, by comparison, is not-emotionally attached to John. Rather, his attachment is to his dog, his uniquely lower-class fashion, and western revolver, all make the Tracker a fascinating character. This is powered by a performance that unleashes charisma constantly, being familiar to our world and an underdog that the audience roots for, despite being an obstacle as John's tracker. And Yen truly stuns in the role of Caine, a blind assassin who works for the table solely to protect his daughter. The physicality of Yen makes each and every scene sing. Yen is the only cast member to truly rival Keanu Reeves when it comes to doing the stunts and choreography, and it’s phenomenal to see unfold. His performance is infused with subtle sadness, as he is completely stuck in this world that Caine wants to leave behind.
And that brings us to Reeves, who has been the true standout of this franchise. John Wick: Chapter 4 is no different in that regard; there isn’t a stunt double in sight, and his precision in the fights is stunning. His performance, like Yen’s, is marked by a persistent sadness, as he is stuck fighting in a world that he left behind so long ago. Wick has been lost for 3 movies now, and as we approach a finale, Reeves is able to infuse so much more into his character's desperation and uncertainty than before.
The story of John Wick: Chapter 4 is one of finality. It wraps up the story from the last 3 chapters, which have been focused on John’s struggle with the high table. And this time, the emotions are cranked back up to eleven. Caine is a friend of John’s, as is Shimazu, played by the great Hiroyuki Sanada. Every character is pushed to their moral and ethical limit, as they have to wrestle with John’s status as excommunicated. John has to wrestle with the consequences of his squabble with the high table. The Marquis and the Tracker are two-ends of a spectrum, driven by ambition, but one is without restraint. This film builds towards its finale, as John has nowhere to run, and only one way out of the mess he made: a duel with the high table. John Wick Chapter 4 continues to build upon the world of this franchise, but in smart and small ways that are natural extensions of what we have seen before. It’s a finale that understands the appeal of the franchise, its characters, and it drives John to make a final stand for his freedom.