‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ MOVIE REVIEW: A Stupefyingly Gorgeous Action Film


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Get your bullet-proof suit on: It’s time for John Wick: Chapter 4, the fourth film in the Keanu Reeves-starring action franchise that kicked off in 2014. Yeah, it’s somehow been close to a decade.

It’s a film series that, in my opinion, began in decent fashion – I enjoyed the first film, but perhaps wasn’t as blown away by its very familiar elements as some. That being said, the series has gone on to kick serious ass as it’s progressed, elevating the action and style to ridiculous heights. We’ve reached round 4 here, and there’s no question at this point that the John Wick films make up what is now up there among the greatest action franchises to have ever exploded on the screen.

I will be pointing out some wrinkles, but relax – they are on the minor side of things. For now, let me put it simply: If you’re a fan of action cinema, John Wick: Chapter 4 is a bloody winner.

We catch up with the “Baba Yaga” following the events of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. His fight with the High Table is continuing to boil over – gathering an insane body count as our badass continues to do what he does best. Wick gets yet another bounty put on his head, this time by the order of High Table senior member Marquis Vincent de Gramont (played by a brilliant Bill Skarsgård). Among those on Wick’s tail: Caine, a blind High Table assassin played by an on-fire Donnie Yen, and Mr. Nobody, a dog-owning bounty hunter played by Shamier Anderson. Cue a globe-trotting journey of glorious bullet-penetrating, bone-snapping, knife-plunging mayhem.


This being the fourth Wick film for director Chad Stahelski and his team, it’s easy to see the confidence that has built up over the chapters – leading to what is a stupefyingly gorgeous action film. The choreography, the edit, the production design, the cinematography – everything’s elevated here.

The action choreography is stunning. Obvious care has gone into crafting riveting combat sequences packed with imaginative kills and incredibly painful-looking stunt work. Seriously, this stunt team deserves wide recognition. There were many moments I was left wincing at not only what occurs in the film, but just thinking about what that real-life person just threw themselves into. Importantly, the combat composition is made to be easy to follow, allowing for further focus on style and cinematography, as well as long shots that, in turn, allow for the action scenes to be appreciated.

A quick sidestep for me. The ambitious long shots and attention to clarity did, unfortunately, draw my eye to the ‘waiting bad guy’. You know, when a goon has to stay writhing on the floor until it’s his turn to fight the hero. Yeah, I feel a little crummy bringing it up, but I noticed it a few times – and I really didn’t want to.

Whether or not the scenes are elongated to the point of exhaustion: I’d say that both sides are certainly arguable. There are many long action sequences here, so many, in fact, that I would understand a critique of overkill. I’ll be honest, the thought of overindulgence did cross my mind a few times. Ultimately, though, I found that the action beats and the plot moved together at a strong pace, managing to keep the exhaustion lined up with what Wick is feeling by the time we got to the finale. And the sheer number of jaw-dropping action moments, well, I’d say it makes this a film one worthy of many revisits. One watch is just not enough to appreciate just how much is going on.


With a complete runtime of 2 hours and 49 minutes, Chapter 4 is the longest film in the franchise. Now, I can imagine that those less inclined to enjoy long sequences of action and a very simple plot may find it a little taxing, but that really goes without saying. When you’re at the fourth chapter of a continuing narrative thread, don’t expect something tailored for newcomers.

Among the standout scenes for me: the traffic circle sequence at France’s Arc de Triomphe, which you’ve seen pushed in the trailers, and the technically incredible sequence of action that takes place in abandoned apartments, with long takes, crane shots, and a Dragon’s Breath Shotgun… wow.

As mentioned, it’s a gorgeous action film. Sounds weird to say, but this very violent picture is very beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous work from Stahelski and cinematographer Dan Laustsen, whose credits include Guillermo del Toro films The Shape of Water and Crimson Peak. And with ultra-stylish production design from Kevin Kavanaugh (The Dark Knight, Nightcrawler), this may be among the most visually sumptuous action films I’ve ever seen.

I haven’t mentioned him yet, but at this point, you know Keanu Reeves and his performance as Wick. He continues in similar, solid form, although at this point Wick’s narrative arc is limited on the dramatic side of things. Thankfully, screenwriter Shay Hatten and Michael Finch know it, so the story is given oomph thanks to a talented ensemble that texturise what could be very simple cardboard cutouts.


Newcomers to the franchise Donnie Yen and Billi Skarsgård are the standouts for me – they’re both fantastic. As the blind badass that is Caine, Yen brings his screen presence and gives us a character that just exudes cool, owning the screen whenever he’s on it. With a connection to Wick and his own reason for having to give chase, Yen is given some meat to chew on – providing us more than just awesome ass-kickery. He really deserves to have his own spinoff franchise. And Skarsgård is also great, giving us a slappable baddie that carries a tangible power, without having to shoot up an array of people to show it.

A very solid ensemble overall, including returning cast members Laurence Fishburne, again chewing it up as the Bowery King, and Ian McShane as Continental manager Winston, who is given his own arc of sorts here. The late Lance Reddick also returns, giving a bittersweet turn as Winston’s right-hand man and friend, Charon. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the strong turns by Hiroyuki Sanada and Rina Sawayama, who play a tough-as-hell father and daughter. British action star Scott Adkins is also here. Having him play this character was kind of fun, but I don’t think I was a big fan of having him in a fat suit with a bumpy German accent. If you have Adkins… let’s have him play someone more like Adkins taking on Keanu. That would be fun.

If there is an area that I wished the film delivered on more strongly, it would be with the drama that drives the narrative between fights. As mentioned, some of the side characters are given more stakes, and that amplifies their motivations. John Wick’s motivations at this point have been whittled down, naturally – I’m not denying the whys or hows – but Wick’s particular story felt wanting this time around. I think Wick deserved a more fleshed out, emotional crescendo here. By the time the film’s credits rolled, I may have been satisfied with the entertainment factor – I’m just not too sure if they stuck the landing in a dramatic sense.

This is a stupefyingly gorgeous action film. Almost three hours of lovingly crafted combat, with applaud-worthy choreography and stunning cinematography. A little more dramatic weight would have elevated the film even higher, but let’s be honest – we’re mostly here for the action and the Keanu. If you’re a fan of the franchise, a fan of action cinema, a fan of Keanu, lock and load, and let John Wick: Chapter 4 take you for a ride.