John Wick 4 is an action epic that'll leave you stunned
John Wick wasn't in the best shape when we left him in Chapter 3, having been shot by his supposed ally Winston and fallen from the roof of the Continental.
He was alive, but barely, although we should know by now it'll take more than that to kill off the Baba Yaga. So yeah, he's back in John Wick: Chapter 4 which is both the longest John Wick movie to date and also its most action-packed – and that's saying something.
This time around, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is determined to get out once and for all, kind of like how he was before his puppy was killed. Standing in his way is the all-powerful and mysterious High Table, who have enlisted a new foe to stop him before he causes too much carnage.
But as rich as the world is, we're not really here for the plot. It's all about the action and John Wick: Chapter 4 does not disappoint, setting a high benchmark that we'd be surprised to see any other 2023 blockbuster match.
We'll start with the elephant in the room. Yes, John Wick: Chapter 4 really is almost three hours long, more than 30 minutes longer than the previous movie, and if you've not bought into this world yet, you will feel its epic length.
Keanu Reeves has likened the new movie to an opera, and it certainly leans more into the melodrama this time around. The heightened world of the series is undeniably camp and there are more layers added this time around. From duels at sunrise to characters called The Harbinger (Clancy Brown), Chapter 4 knows it's melodramatic and revels in it.
The entire middle act revolves around an expansion of its world as Wick heads back to old friends to help in his mission. It culminates – like every act of Chapter 4 does – in an extended action set piece that starts with a Mexican standoff over a card game and ends in a club where rain falls inside (naturally).
Casual fans or newcomers might think it's all a bit too much and a section that you could realistically cut out without hurting the plot. But they'd be missing the ludicrous joy of this world that has developed from a man avenging his puppy to operatic stakes and themes of redemption and freedom.
For fans, 169 minutes won't be long enough.
The previous movie did suffer from repetitive action set pieces towards the end – after all, there are only so many ways you can shoot somebody. Here though, there's a distinct flavour to each of Chapter 4's set pieces, while still containing the classic beats.
So you get plenty of neon-drenched locations and Wick shooting many, many people in the head, but new elements are added throughout, including nunchucks, car-fu (we're not kidding) and motion-sensor doorbells. Make sure you remember that the suits are bulletproof though, as you might get confused by the amount of damage they take.
We've always known that the action in John Wick movies wouldn't seem out of place in Looney Tunes. For Chapter 4, the filmmakers seem in on the joke though as there's a playfulness to the set pieces, capped off with a stairs stunt in the climactic set piece that is outrageously good.
It's not just the stunt-work that can compete with John Wick at its best, as Keanu Reeves pushes himself further than ever. You can try to work out the incredible amount of craft and planning that went into each set piece, or you can just sit back and savour the best action you'll see on the big screen this year.
What lets Chapter 4 down is its central villain. Bill Skarsgård is entertaining as the Marquis de Gramont, a spoilt rich boy who sips espressos as he hands out death warrants, but there's no development there. The Marquis remains an arrogant douchebag and never feels like a worthy adversary to Wick.
By contrast, Donnie Yen is terrific as blind former High Table assassin Caine, who's blackmailed to hunt down his friend Wick. Caine gets development and depth that is never afforded the Marquis, who ends up in the background far too often to make a sizeable impact.
Intriguing supporting characters like Caine, Akira (played by Rina Sawayama in an auspicious movie debut) and the enigmatic Tracker (Shamier Anderson, who both gets a Very Good Dog and out-cools even Keanu) make up the slack. It still remains a slight disappointment that Chapter 4 doesn't have a classic main villain too.
As you're watching Wick deal damage with a dragon's-breath shotgun, all captured in a bird's-eye-view, one-take shot, you won't be thinking about the weak villain. The movie leaves you in awe too often with its audacious set pieces for any serious gripes, and the finale will leave fans talking about something else entirely.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is an epic in every sense of the word: epic in length, epic in scale and epic in thrills. Not bad for a series that started out with a hitman avenging his dead puppy.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is released in cinemas on March 24.
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