Much can be said about the character of John Wick, but his action is better left observed or passed on through urban legend. The latest installment of the John Wick franchise has taken theaters across the world by storm. This review will be spoiler-free.
“John Wick: Chapter 4” (2023, rated R) sees the return of the titular John Wick, and his latest attempt to clear his name from the High Table — a high-level crime organization with strict rules and laws that Mr. Wick has broken in previous films, setting himself as the object of the High Table’s obsession.
This sequel sees the maniacal rise of high-ranking High Table member Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) and his quest to finally bring an end to talented hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves).
The film advertises a nearly three-hour long runtime jam-packed with stylized action and thrilling gunfights, with some slower emotional beats to keep the audience’s adrenaline steady. These traits have been effortlessly combined in the three previous installments and remained in Chapter 4 as well.
Possibly the best aspect of this film was the understanding of light and color within the frame. It is very possible for larger films that are part of a franchise to skip out on light and color and merely focus on advancing the story, but “John Wick: Chapter 4” seemed to display the best lighting that has been seen in the franchise.
A recent fad in the John Wick franchise has been the different locations Mr. Wick finds himself. This trend continued in the fourth installment as well but seemed to do it better than the previous three. Each different country or location that John visited felt very unique and distinct, all because of the way that it was colored. Japan was light blue with red undertones, France bathed in swathes of yellow, and Berlin stuck to green and orange. Color is almost its own character in this film, and the intensity of the hues really brings out the moody atmosphere.
Cinematography is another element in this film that deserves high marks as well. This film has sweeping landscapes, aerial shots that would make the Grand Canyon jealous and tight-knit close-ups to really highlight the stress on the character’s face. Each shot felt very purposeful, with very little filler.
As typical with any John Wick film, realism isn’t the strong suit. The fourth installment felt the most removed from reality when it came to injuries that John Wick sustains throughout the film, such as falling from the fourth floor of an abandoned hotel and somehow getting up and walking it off later. It is important to note, however, that John Wick isn’t known for its realism, but for its entertainment from stylized, almost videogame-like action. On this front, “John Wick: Chapter 4” really succeeded. However, some of the events that John somehow survived felt very difficult to just dust off. The unrealism in some of the events that happen really took the immersion out of the film at points.
The action felt choreographed well and was very engaging. The action was almost comedic at times, considering the ways that John is able to creatively take out his enemies. There were some parts that felt a little drawn out for the sake of flashy action, but for the most part, the gripping stunts and action hold the audience’s attention quite well. The two newest characters, Caine (Donnie Yen) and Tracker (Shamier Anderson) both brought different fighting styles to the table that seemed to fill in the gaps that John Wick’s sense of “beat them til’ the candy comes out” can't quite reach.
Speaking of Caine and Tracker, their characters were actually very dynamic and brought a lot to the film. Both actors delivered performances that most might not expect from a John Wick film. A lot of the cast of previous John Wick films felt forgettable and unimportant, but these two felt like they had enough character development to warrant their own films or spinoffs.
Over the nearly three hours of runtime, a case can be made that the film didn’t necessarily do anything new. John is still on the run with the whole world on his shoulders, with his few friends in constant danger of his wrongdoings. The biggest folly of this film was the lack of any substantial addition to the plot, aside from the two new side characters.
Fight scene after fight scene had the audience gripping their seats, even to the credits. Stylish action with death-defying stunts couples well with the creative team’s usage of color and cinematography to create a behemoth of an action film. However, the pretty shots don’t do a great job of covering up the platform that the franchise has been standing on since the second film.
Is this film worth a rewatch? Maybe with a family member, or if there’s a desire to watch something that doesn’t require deep levels of thought. Who is this movie perfect for? Any action lover who needs a break from the modern CGI mess. To wrap it all up, “John Wick: Chapter 4” earns a 7.5 out of 10.
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