John Wick: Chapter 4

Director: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Laurence Fishburne, Donnie Yen, and Bill Skarsgard
Distributor: StudioCanal
Runtime: 169 mins. Reviewed in Mar 2023
Reviewer: Peter W Sheehan
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong action violence

This action-thriller film tells the story of an assassin, John Wick, who is hunted by “The High Table”, and who earns his freedom by defeating powerful, sinister forces across the globe.

This lengthy American action-thriller is the fourth instalment in the John Wick franchise, and is a sequel to the 2019 movie, John Wick: Chapter 3 ­– Parabellum. The franchise began with a film, titled simply, John Wick in 2014. The director is Chad Stahelski, a stunt coordinator for The Matrix trilogy.

John Wick is a media franchise that was originally created by Derek Kolstad, and centres around John Wick, a former hitman, who is forced out of retirement to seek revenge against the men who killed his beloved beagle puppy dog, which was a gift from his deeply loved late wife. The man responsible for killing his dog was the boss of New York City’s Russian mafia. The puppy helped Wick cope with his acute grief for his deceased wife. Wick was forced to contend with a criminal underworld he thought he had abandoned, and he kills to be free. Formerly, he was a mafia hitman, and at least 80 people have been killed after his dog.

John Wick has cultivated a reputation for being many people’s favourite assassin. This film returns with familiar faces from the franchise, including the main character, Keanu Reeves, who athletically and impressively takes the lead role alongside Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and Laurence Fishburne. The film introduces a host of new faces in high-action scenarios, and some, as expected, are killed. Predominant among The High Table assassins is his friend, Caine (Donnie Yen), who is completely blind, and lethal.

The John Wick franchise has always trod a fine line between action violence and horror comedy. The 2014 film which began the franchise has now become a cult classic. Chapter 5 is already under way, and the followers of screen violence often claim that John Wick films are the trademark for action-violence on the cinema screen. Typically, a Wick film avoids close-up shots that characterise what most contemporary action films prefer to use. In a Wick film, long single, sweeping shots, and detailed choreography, convey the desired action. Wick films combine martial arts with guns, knives, and other lethal combat tools ­– and they are dog-friendly.

This is a franchise where plots are varied without compromising the calculated presence of exaggerated violence and horror comedy. The film delivers what is expected – revenge, murder, torture, maiming, executions, and killing – all fitting the generic description that has been outlined in this review, and action violence is by gun, sword, fist, knife, or any object or instrument of destruction that happens to be around. John Wick movies are routinely accompanied by excellent choreography, and in this film, as in other Wick films, action-violence and stunning choreography go hand in handWick movies also typically highlight extravagant film locations. Chapter 4 takes the viewer from New York to Paris, Osaka and to Berlin – and a lot of killing occurs in each scenic city.

In John Wick – Chapter 3, Wick survives after being left for dead. Here, Wick defeats his enemies, but not before a new enemy from “The High Table” (Bill Skarsgard) emerges, that sees him killing in each of the cities that the film features. Vigorous action-violence fills the screen, and violence is delivered in a way that is faithful to the visual style that has been well established in previous John Wick movies.

This film, is not for the faint-hearted in any way, but it is faithful to the Wick franchise. Viewers should note that John Wick’s tombstone shown at the conclusion of this film anticipates Chapter 5, which (currently) is scheduled to end the franchise.

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