Keanu Reeves returns as John Wick in the fourth instalment of the spy-action franchise, four years after the practically perfect John Wick 3 : Parabellum. Directed by Chad Stahelski and written by Shay Hatten & Michael Finch deliver 14 huge action sequences unlike anything seen on film before. There are a whole host of new characters in this fourth entry and each of them gets a fleshed-out story arc and the nearly three-hour run time explores this before bringing everything together for an incredibly thrilling final act that stands out as among the best in the series to date.
The film picks up immediately after the events of the Parabellum with John Wick seeking refuge in Japan at The Continental and its manager Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada), as the High Table are stopping at nothing to take him out. The leader of the High Table Marquis De Gramont (Bill Skarsgard) is continually raising the price for Wick’s death, this is being closely follwed by Tracker (Shamier Anderson) and his adorable dog. When the High Table still can’t catch Mr Wick, they employ the services of a High Table assassin Caine (Donnie Yen) As the characters and their paths interconnect, it is up to Wick to take out De Gramont in an attempt to finally be free of this organisation and live out the rest of his life.
It is hard to describe just how incredible the action is in this film. All fourteen sequences are meticulously crafted with precise choreography from the actors and stunt performers, it whizzes by as the camera whips around capturing the action from every possible angle that will surprise and delight. While this is a film made for the big screen, there is a clear influence of video games from director Stahelski. There is an intense scene in the final act where the camera raises to the roof and we are treated to a top-down view of an intense fight in an abandoned warehouse. It feels like it’s lifted straight from dropdown arcade shooter Hotline Miami. The most breathtaking action sequence takes place in a battle at the Arc de Triomphe with some pretty serious peak-hour traffic. It is an intense scene that throws all of the filmmaker’s creativity on display, as such I am going out on a limb and saying this might be my favourite action sequence in any movie ever. Part of what makes this series so fantastic is when the assassins are fighting in public places, cars dont stop, people eating in restaurants outside on the kerb don’t flinch as Wick and others shoot, punch and pummel their way down past them.
The cast here all bring their A-game with Reeves really settling into the role the fourth time around. Yen is a great addition to the cast with his commanding presence in fight scenes and his chemistry with Reeves really carries the film. Similarly, Anderson and his canine companion are a great round-out for the cast. While he does play a dangerous character being a tracker, potentially taking out Wick for the reward, the constant struggle between his motivations as the story unravels is fascinating to watch. Rina Sawayama plays the concierge at the Osaka Continental – Akira. Sawayama steals every scene she is in, her concern over the growing influence of the High Table and what Wick’s presence there will bring is a great way to start the film. As the events of the story escalate, Akira’s desperation and fury are a great parallel to Wick’s and Sawayama plays the part perfectly.
Much has been said about the nearly three-hour run-time of this film, particularly after the previous films stick to a tight two hours. Generally, these over-bloated action films extend things out in and you can feel every minute of it, fortunately here the characters are so incredibly well written and enough of the action is mixed in to stop John Wick Chapter 4 from suffering this same fate. The first hour as the foundations and the players are being set up, is injected with enough action in between each character’s story, it all flows seamlessly into each setpiece. This is one movie, you won’t be wondering how much longer it has to go.
John Wick Chapter 4 continues the story of the revenge-filled retired agent and cranks it up about ten notches. When watching this movie, it is hard to believe that all of this started from a man hell-bent on revenge after his dog is killed (in fact, one character makes a joke about this at one point during the film) The high energy action, neon lighting and action sequences that have been elevated here deliver the best film in the franchise so far.
John Wick Chapter 4 is in cinemas March 23.