John Wick Chapter 4 Review: Masterful Action Spectacle Oozing BDE. Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen Are *Chef’s Kiss*
We already agree that Keanu Reeves’ John Wick has BDE (Big D*ck Energy). With John Wick: Chapter 4, director Chad Stahelski went ahead and brought in a few more characters, like Donnie Yen’s Caine, who only up the BDE quotient of this franchise. Such that even on its fourth instalment, it still manages to surprise us with how terrific it can get. The action is mind-blowing, the set pieces inspiring and so brilliantly used, the cinematography (Dan Laustsen) adds great depth in all the right places, and the actors ooze their charisma all over this film. The result? Chad Stahelski and writer Shay Haten give us one of the best action movies we’ve seen. John Wick Chapter 4 stars Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Ian McShane, Laurance Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, and Lance Reddick.
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Last we saw our favourite retired hitman/loving husband/excommunicado John Wick (Keanu Reeves) in Chapter 3, aptly titled Parabellum, he was being egged on by The King of The Bowery (Laurence Fishburn) to prepare for war against the High Table. When we meet John in Chapter 4, war has begun, and within minutes of the film beginning, we’re in action. We know from the trailer, John mostly probably kills the Elder, and riles up the High Table, who send one of their own loose canon members, the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), to put this rebellion down. The arrogant and overconfident Marquis pulls out of retirement (these guys should really know this never ends well) Caine (Donnie Yen), a blind former High Table assassin, to end Wick, in exchange for something he desperately wants.
Caine isn’t the only one dogging John’s steps though. The bounty on his head, which started at $14 million keeps getting upped, the more he eludes death. And there’s a very determined tracker with an agenda, going by the name Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson), who’s got his eye on John too. Meanwhile, things aren’t looking good at The Continental, both in New York and in Osaka, and this time, even Winston (Ian McShane) is riled up because the High Table is all about pitting friends against friends and making a lot of enemies. Oh, and there’s a new dog in the picture, guys.
So is John ready to kick some ass and rack up a body count that’s taller than the Empire State Building?
“Yeaaaaah” *read in Keanu Reeves voice*
Also Read: Did You Know Keanu Reeves Presented Preity Zinta With Her ‘Best Female Debut’ Award For ‘Soldier’ Back In 1999?
There are several reasons why John Wick as a franchise, with plots that are straight and thin, and action sequences that are mind-boggling yet unbelievable, continues to be a gold standard in action films. As someone who is a lore whore, I love just how steeped into lore this franchise is and how at every turn we get introduced to a new custom or a new rule of this richly etched-out underground world of assassins and crime. What’s more, it’s rooted in old school; they’ve old money, family crests with mottos in Latin, a stickling for rules that is rarely found in these days. And above all, there’s honour among thieves and an almost fatal reverence for friendship and loyalty ( I’d like to think the presence of dogs in the John Wick franchise is a recurring motif for that).
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I love movies that send you on a satisfying chase for symbolism. John Wick 4 has plenty of that, as it borrows heavily from Roman and Greek mythology. Some are obvious, like when Winston says “Si vis pacem, para bellum” (If you want peace, prepare for war) in John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum, the Hercules references, and the Continental concierge being named Charon (Lance Reddick). After name-dropping Dante’s Divine Comedy in Chapter 3, you can’t help but draw parallels to our hero’s journey. He goes through different circles of hell before he finds peace; he has several guides (Winston, The King, Halle Berry as Sofia, Caine) through them all including his dead wife, Helen (Bridget Moynahan), just like Dante had Beatrice. One of the penultimate scenes happens on steps, and the hero must ascend to finally complete his quest. Hell, there’s even a river crossing, symbolising a sort of passage between realms.
This world thus created lends an air of modern mythology to the story. Which in turn makes the unbelievable, believable. The action is so slick, happening at break-neck speed, that you can barely catch your breath, let alone throw logical doubts at the screen. But even when you do—like when you wonder why there are never any cops or how has John Wick fallen from a building thrice or been hit by a car like six times and still aiming his shot straight—you let them slide, because everything else just comes together to make you want to believe in the hero as Invictus. Baba Yaga!
Also Read: 6 Things That John Wick 4 Star Keanu Reeves Has Done That’ll Make You Love Him Even More
I read on Twitter, that at the SXSW premiere of John Wick 4, in a scene where Keanu Reeves falls down, someone in the crowd yells, “Get up, John!” and the whole theatre erupts. That’s exactly the emotion running through your mind in this entire film! Yes, it’s crazy impossible, and because you’re a smart-ass, you’re laughing with your fellow moviegoers about the outrageousness of it all. But you’re having unquestionable fun and want John Wick to get up and kick all the asses as many times as it takes, concussions and internal haemorrhaging be damned.
As expected, JW 4 goes bigger and better with its action. You think, how many times can a gunfight sequence blow your mind (pun intended)? Is a 15-minute fight sequence really necessary? But the long-take fights are masterfully choreographed, utilising everything in the room: Guns, nunchucks, swords, knives, shards of glass, a gun that shoots fireworks like it’s freaking Guy Fawkes night, phew! But it’s not just how cool it is, but also how incredibly it is all done. Yes, some dude is getting stabbed in his ear, but set to that score and with Reeves, Sanadan, and Yen making it look so good? You cannot look away! It’s not gory, it’s not icky. It’s action, but make it art.
Most fight scenes, especially a particular one shot at a nightclub with scores of people dancing in the background, almost feel like straight out of a video game. Both the good guys and bad guys are armoured, so you shoot them and they get back up way too many times as if they have multiple lives. And around them, the NPCs keep dancing unperturbed! It’s one of those hilarious logic holes you want to stick your finger in and laugh at, if it didn’t look so visually dynamic.
The film shot across multiple cities like NYC, Osaka, and Paris makes good use of what these cities have to offer to create some truly spectacular sequences. Whether it’s a scene atop a roof in Osaka, all black except for a sole white cherry blossom tree, all bathed in red light signalling war, or it is a grand cathedral shot in Paris, dwarfing the men who’ve come to seek peace before the final battle, or a final battle happening at dawn. To quote Keanu Reeves, it’s breathtaking. I could go on and on!
We cannot not talk about the big deal that is Keanu Reeves as John Wick and Donnie Yen as Caine (the meta joke that this is!) facing off. Both these characters clearly have effortless BDE. Keanu Reeves gives his all to John Wick and its almost like going into trance, watching his Baba Yaga move at that speed with THAT finesse. What’s more, he even sells the sparse dialogue he gets to utter, as if he’s truly a hermit who has forgotten the ways of this world.
And then there’s Donnie Yen—legend— *chef’s kiss* in every scene, lending both style and comic relief to a franchise that has mostly just relied on sharp quips and Keanu’s trademark delivery of ‘Yeah’ to make you snort-laugh. I’ve long come to accept that Wick’s words died with Helen, and all the concussion he is carrying has this major repercussion: The man isn’t much of a talker. But John Wick 4 gives us Yen’s Caine and Bill Skarsgård’s Marquis, who play characters that don’t mind talking. Amongst a slew of new characters like Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada), Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson), Killa (Scott Adkins), and Akira (Rina Sawayama), you get an action ensemble that is one for the books. Although I did wish we saw some more of the High Table members!
Also Read: What To Watch This Week Of March 20 To 26: Bheed, Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga, John Wick Chapter 4, And More
Honestly, I was planning to make this a one-word review à la John Wick: Yeaaah!
Watching Reeves in JW 4, and before that SRK in Pathaan, I am reminded once again of how, sometimes, it’s the actor’s off-screen persona that lends conviction to his onscreen character, which makes you root for them, and anything they do larger than life and iconic. Reeves has done that not once but twice now, with The Matrix and John Wick, where his legend mixes with the mythology of the story to create a potent cocktail.
The John Wick franchise has oozed BDE since the first film. But with John Wick 4, director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves give us a chapter that’s all cranked up and on fire. It demands your ooohs and aahs, a ton of ouches, is subtly funny and deep and still manages to surprise you with how it does action and how that action can be shot, which makes all the difference. The runtime feels insurmountable, especially when there are scenes like Winston taking his own sweet time to stride across a corridor (the paintings in the background surely have meaning) but it’s those quiet moments in between the gunfire where JW4 really becomes so much more than just another action film. To pull all this off at this point in the franchise? What a goddamn flex!
John Wick Chapter 4 is in theatres, and shouldn’t be missed.
PS: RIP Lance Reddick. It has been an honour.
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- Keanu Reeves
- John Wick
- John Wick Chapter 4
Sharp-tongued feminist. Proud nerd. Opinions with on-point pop-culture references about films, books, your toxic BF, the patriarchy, and the Oxford comma.