John Wick: Chapter 4 continues to bring what the franchise does best, even if gets a bit overindulgent with its stellar action at times.
John’s new dog got barely a minute of screentime. 0/5 stars, throw the DVDs in a landfill.
Directed by Chad Stahelski, John Wick: Chapter 4 stars Keanu Reeves as the titular character in a secret society of hitmen. This time, he is up against the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), a senior member of the aforementioned society who wants John and his reputation dead. Unfortunately for him, he must not have seen the previous movies to realize that trying to kill John Wick will land you in the grave faster than a bullet.
When it comes to action films – as in, street-level, good old fists and guns action – there are a number of series that I hold in extremely high regards. One of them is the John Wick franchise. It has consistently delivered cleanly choroegraphed action sequences and an intriguing lore to explore. It stumbled a bit with Chapter 3, where some of its action felt a bit sloppily put together, but I still had faith in the director and star to deliver a satisfying sequel.
The issue is that I actually don’t have much to talk about here in terms of new praise. That’s not to say there’s nothing good, quite the opposite. Visually, John Wick: Chapter 4 has to be the best in the entire series. The neo-noir style of these movies was always like comfort food for my eyes, and this film takes it above and beyond, combining vibrant colors with exotic new locations that would make for at least a hundred screensavers.
The action feels snappier and more streamlined than Chapter 3, and maintains a good balance of gun-fu and hand to hand combat. The cast certainly helps, as we not only have Keanu Reeves but also Donnie Yen, who plays the character Caine. I will say this right now, he deserves his own spinoff. His character is blind, and he brings across a unique charm in his combat style that Daredevil would be jealous of. This serves to bring us action setpieces and creative sequences that work just as well as before.
But note that I keep mentioning the past movies when talking about these strong points. Because that’s what John Wick: Chapter 4 is, really: more of what worked before. More action, more lore, more Keanu Reeves saying “con-se-quen-ces” slowly like he’s a speech therapy program. All that is fine, but it still leaves me with very few unique points to praise, and I end up simply parroting what I said about the previous installments.
Which is why I am actually going to spend most of the time talking about what didn’t work with the film. You can just assume that everything I don’t criticize is perfectly fine and even great.
I said we get more of the action that we loved from before, but that also ends up being its greatest flaw: many of them feel just a minute or two too long. For example, the first main action sequence in Osaka is almost twenty minutes long, punctuated by just a few moments of dialogue or establishing shots. If I had known the fight scenes were going to overstay their welcome this much, I would have taken a bathroom break and spared my bladder the strain it was feeling when the movie ended.
In fact, to talk about that first sequence a bit more, the Osaka part also works against the overall story pacing. Sure, it helped set up Caine’s skill and mentioned his history with John, but that only takes up a small portion of it. Most of it is just there to get across the fact that “John Wick is really good at killing people,” “John Wick has good friends,” and “John Wick brings death like the spring season brings allergies,” something that had already been established well enough in past movies.
Because said sequence ends up taking longer than it takes for me to grow my beard out to Keanu Reeves’ length, we spend practically an hour into the movie with no final goal of any kind. Thankfully, once John becomes aware of de Gramont’s hit on him, the story now has a clear direction it can follow, but before that, it felt more like I was going through a John Wick highlight reel.
Certain new characters also don’t hold up to scrutiny. While Caine feels necessary and gets across his history with John well, the same can’t be said for Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson). He was very clearly a tacked on “mid-boss” to further complicate things for John. I suppose his relationship with his attack dog companion is something, but a. despite what John might argue, dogs can’t make everything better, and b. even that was already covered in Chapter 3 with Sofia (Halle Berry).
Then there is the main villain of the movie, de Gramont himself. Bill Skarsgård does the most he can with the character, but my issue is that he is the most impersonal main villain to date. Unlike past villains such as Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio), Zero (Mark Dacascos), or even Caine in this film, he has no past connection with John nor does he have a particularly strong reason for wanting to kill him. Granted, these movies were never really renown for their villians, but the previous ones at least had something to their character that made the coup de gras satisfying.
But I must stress that none of these complaints come even close to breaking the movie for me. It’s just that if I really went into all the things I loved about Chapter 4, I would have to do a play-by-play commentary of all the action scenes, and at that point you’re much better off going to a react video on Youtube. The aforementioned issues are more akin to a few specks of mud on Keanu Reeves’ face; it’s not going to make him any less devastatingly sexy.
Both Stalhelski and Keanu Reeves said they were hanging up the franchise for now, and I think that is a good decision. John Wick: Chapter 4 is precisely what fans of the series wanted more of, and I love it for that, but it would have been too much to drag it out for a fifth movie. What we have is enough: a solid, satisfying conclusion to the franchise. It could have trimmed the fat a bit, but then again, I don’t need my steak to be lean all the time.
John Wick: Chapter 4 was released globally in theaters in March 2023. Read our list of all John Wick movies, ranked from worst to best!