[Review] John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) by Marcus Wilturner

John Wick. A name that is synonymous with stone cold revenge. A name that is known for righteous fury, tailor-made suits, and guns…lots of guns. A name that has redefined the action genre for the modern filmmaking era, and made audiences fall in love with Keanu Reeves all over again, in a series that fits his brand of stoic, expressionless acting to a T. It’s a name etched in cinematic history, and one the world is about to praise once again as the highly anticipated fourth installment of the distinguished assassin’s magnificent tale has arrived to knock our collective socks off with more enriched locales, extensive action scenes, and hard-boiled insanity. The man. The myth. The legend. Has returned.

Unironically enough, the previous installments of this saga always rocked faces off in equal fashion. The first film was an action-packed, precise, and kinetic blast that turned into one of the biggest sleeper hits of 2014, crafting a straight-forward piece of no-nonsense entertainment. Before that time, quite a few films in the genre were very one-note, whether a financial/critical success or not. The only exceptions being the James Bond, Mission: Impossible, The Raid, and Expendables films. 

Anyway, the first Wick bloodbath is an unquestionable classic that stands next to the greats. John Wick Chapter 2 (2017) was a bolder continuation that elevated the story, characters, tone, and choreographed carnage to the level of outlandish absurdity while also staying true to its grounded origins with its violence and brutality. One of the best sequels ever conceived...then the third entry, John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum, arrived with a huge bang in 2019, launching the fast-paced and hardcore sequences into the stratosphere of pulse-pounding, high-caliber art the likes of which haven’t been seen or attempted that often in some time.

Throughout the years, Keanu Reeves, director Chad Stahelski, and the multi-talented crew have done an exquisite job of pushing the envelope and outdoing themselves in every one of these features, laying the groundwork and then breaking that aforementioned ground, solidifying this transmogrifying franchise into the eschels of excellence and history. So much so that other concepts arrived in the same vein to prove that this particular influential execution can work wonders in other projects. Such features include Nobody (2021), Atomic Blonde (2017)Guns Akimbo (2019), Extraction (2020), Gunpowder Milkshake (2021), and Kate (2021) just to name a few. Yep. It all goes back to Wick, which has changed the landscape of low and big budget actioners. Forever. And the excellence continues…

John Wick Chapter 4 (2023) is an unforgettable opus that shocks, captivates, immerses, and soars on every singular wavelength. A dazzling achievement that reaches a whole new plateau of literal action nirvana, overflowing with transcendent allure and intensity. A film that literally explodes across the screen, drowning the senses and overcharging the optics with cinematic beauty and death. It delivers so exceedingly, you’ll be tempted light up a cigarette after it’s all said and done, or go buy some nunchucks. If you know you know.

As the story goes, a fully healed and enraged John Wick (Reeves) treks across the world on another mission of vengeance as he goes up against the High Table, the most powerful council in the underworld, with the intent of destroying them to earn sweet freedom from the bounty that remains on his head. Unfortunately, the High Table are aware of Wick’s plan, sending one of their members, the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) to stop John at all costs. To do so, Marquis enlists the assistance of another retired hitman, Caine (Donnie Yen) and a young rookie named Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson) to track Wick down. Luckily John has his own allies willing to risk it all for his quest such as crime boss Bowery King (Lawrence Fishburne), “continental” manager Winston Scott (Ian McShane), and old-friend Shizami Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada), who intend of making their own moves towards High Table decimation and liberation. A collision course ensues.

Right off the bat, I have to proclaim that this project has the most lavish production values ever put to film. Absolutely gorgeous locales and set pieces from across the globe. Whether it was the elegant prestige of Japan, the vibrant richness of Berlin, the historical serenity of Italy, or the metropolitan grandness of New York City, Stahelski and cinematographer Dan Laustsen not only made the most of every region but amplified what made each country special and distinctive. They even switched to large format shooting, pairing anamorphic lenses to significantly widen many shots and sequences while also being able to cement portrait-esque close-ups of characters in pivotal moments. These technical aspects and international authenticity succeed in expanding this universe in a grand, meaningful way.

That’s not to say there isn’t any symbolism either amongst the bloodshed because there’s plenty to examine should the need arrive. With many religious visuals and philosophical dialogue, Stahelski has stated that he was going for a modernized J.R.R. Tolkien or The Iliad presentation, which is intriguing considering Wick’s odyssey. Though personally I believe this plays out like contemporary Shakespeare. The poetic themes of loss of love, reflection of death, arrogant ambition, layers of power, passages of fate, and destructive free will, coursing through its subtext and script. Palpable stuff.

Performance wise, the diverse ensemble cast delivered on establishing their characters in varying degrees. Skarsgård played a stellar villain with a refined, sinister panache. Sanada was his usual dignified, badass self. McShane and Fishburne were the dominating presences holding the support and gravitas as per their legendary methods. Scott Adkins and Marko Zaror appeared in significant showings, sporting a makeshift Undisputed 3 (2010) reunion. Newcomer Rina Sawayama made her acting debut leaving a sensational mark on the story, and the great Lance Reddick gave an uber-solid showing in his last film before his unfortunate passing. (Rest in Peace sir) Yet, the standouts in this thrill-ride were easily sassy new blood Shamier Anderson and scene-stealer Donnie Yen in their own rights. But of course, the leader of the pack and driving force behind this flick is Reeves, who proved once again to be a brooding, lethal, unstoppable machine with a steely glare. The full-blown dedication he and the rest of the cast put into their performances through physicality and emotional prowess shines like almost anything we’ve seen before. It’s truly a wonder to behold.

And the action? Well, I’m not going to tell you any specifics whatsoever. Nope, that would do the finished product a disservice. You deserve to experience it for yourself. But I will say, prepare to be wowed once again as this miracle of mayhem, cataclysm of chaos, symphony of sadism, vehemence of violence, and bombastic bombardment of bodies comes at you with everything it has and doesn’t let up until the very end. Like I stated before, action nirvana people. Action freaking nirvana.

Whether this is the final hurrah of John Wick’s blood-soaked crusade or not, it’s undeniable how freaking EPIC this chapter is. From its sleeper roots to international acclaim, this franchise continues to reach for the stars and this entry somehow reached beyond that. It’s awe-inspiring and downright orgasmic. A bonafide modern masterpiece for the genre and cinema as a medium. So, if you’re reading this, and haven’t seen it, go rectify that post haste. And if you have seen it, do it again! Nothing in the rule books that states you can’t be wowed again right? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go buy some nunchucks.

Again, if you know you know.


Review by Marcus Wilturner


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