Back in 2014, Keanu Reeves marked his Hollywood comeback with the sleeper hit John Wick. The film was a simple story of a former assassin getting revenge on those who killed his dog. Despite its simplicity, what caught the public eye was its beautifully shot and choreographed action scenes. It made back $86 million on a budget of about $20 million, greenlighting further sequels and spinoffs. And while each sequel gets crazier, none nearly reach the level that John Wick Chapter 4 does.
After the events of the third film, John Wick (played by Keanu Reeves) comes out of hiding and hunts down the Elder in the desert. Meanwhile, the High Table sends Marquis Vincent de Gramont (played by Bill Skarsgård) to hunt down Wick and those who help him. He then enlists the help of former assassin Caine (played by Donnie Yen) and the two track Wick down to the Osaka Continental where the hotel staff led by the manager, Koji (played by Hiroyuki Sanada). With the help of Koji’s daughter Akira (played by Rina Sawayama), he escapes and upon meeting up with Winston (played by Ian McShane), John challenges Marquis Gramont to a duel to the death in order to secure his freedom.
Although every John Wick film has its own fair share of beautiful cinematography, none remotely come close to the fourth installment. John Wick Chapter 4 pays homage to both traditional and post-modern Japanese culture when John is in Osaka. The contrasting red and blue lighting, the play with shadows and contrast all remind me of cyberpunk themed stories set in Japan. While I saw a bit of this visual spectacle in David Leitch’s Bullet Train, it considerably pales in comparison to John Wick Chapter 4! One thing that I appreciate about every John Wick film is that they all look distinctly different from one another. The first one was grungy and teal, the second one much more bombastic as John travels to Rome, the third one introducing a more cartoonish Uncharted/Prince of Persia adventure feel, and the fourth one resembling a cyberpunk noir.
But it wouldn’t be a John Wick film without bombastic and beautiful action choreography, to which this film has in leaps and bounds; which it had to, in order to justify the three hour runtime. Once again, Wick’s shooting abilities are on full display as he not only effortlessly mows down assassins in the Arabian Desert, but also in Osaka, Berlin and Paris! But to complement his expert level shooting skills, John also makes more creative use of traditional and improvised weaponry. The best display in the fourth movie is the fight between Wick and the assassins at the Osaka Continental, where John easily uses a pair of nunchaku to dispatch his enemies. Keanu Reeves never fails to impress me with his dedication and hard work. He’s 58 years old and is easily moving around like a man in his 20s.
But besides Reeves, the universe of John Wick is further fleshed out with excellent performances from Hiroyuki Sanada, martial arts legends Donnie Yen and Scott Adkins, Rina Sawayama and Bill Skarsgård. Sanada once again proves he is more than capable to be in an action-packed film with his charm as an aged warrior who stands by his principles and friends. And with BOTH Donnie Yen and Scott Adkins, you know that you’re gonna get some A-list action. Yen proves that he still can easily kick your butt even at the age of 59 with blinding speed and creativity as a blind assassin, often relying on echolocation to where his enemies are. Meanwhile, you can feel the impact from every kick and punch thrown by Adkins! Although I initially didn’t feel like Skarsgård would be a good antagonist, he more than surprised me with his commitment and brutality.
As with every entry before, John Wick Chapter 4 has some absolutely breathtaking cinematography. The camera cuts back and forth between medium and wide shots to not only establish the setting, but also to allow viewers to experience the action in all its glory. But my favorite camera technique is the bird’s eye point of view used in the assassin rampage in the third act, when John shoots his way through Paris as he meets to duel Gramont. When compared to the previous entries, John Wick Chapter 4 is the most inventive and gorgeous with its cinematography, beating out most Academy Award winning films in the past year! The only recent films that I can think of who rival John Wick Chapter 4 in terms of cinematography are Denis Villeneuve’s Dune and Matt Reeves’ The Batman.
Some argue that John Wick Chapter 4’s runtime is too long. However, I don’t think that it’s necessarily a problem. While 3 hours is certainly a long tine to sit through a film, John Wick Chapter 4 keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout its entire runtime either through its gorgeous and bombastic action sequences, breathtaking cinematography and stellar performances from its entire cast. Never have I once felt the need to get up during the film for any reason, it was just that entertaining.
John Wick not only kick started Keanu Reeves’ renaissance, but also paved a new path for action films in Hollywood. Not only does it serve well as a standalone action flick, but it also surprisingly defies the sequel trap. Every single entry in the John Wick franchise has been a major hit and the fourth one is no exception. Out of all of the four John Wick films, I have to say that the fourth installment is easily my favorite! With breathtaking visuals, insane action scenes and a memorable performance from the one and only Keanu Reeves, John Wick Chapter 4 is the quintessential action film of the past decade and easily the best film I’ve seen so far in 2023!