Coming out of retirement (again) to seek his freedom, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) must trot around the globe to kill The Marquis (Bill Skarsgård), the only man who can call off the goons of the High Table – here’s our review.
There’s a shot near the beginning of John Wick: Chapter 4, while our black-suited protagonist is on his jollies in Osaka, which sees a red neon-lit Keanu Reeves staring morosely past a blossom tree. In two minutes, John will have an unnecessarily long conversation about how many assassins are coming to murder him. In five, he will kill said assassins with a pistol in one hand and a nunchaku in the other: a gun-chuck, if you will. It might be the John Wickiest sequence ever committed to celluloid.
Probably one of the most impressive things about the John Wick franchise is its ability to consistently meet expectations.
Nine years after reinventing the Hollywood action movie, each instalment still finds new ways to throw a man through a glass window. Which, if we’re honest, is all we’re here for, and is all Chapter 4 honestly delivers. At a whisker under three hours, this time round the talkie bits feel even longer and more unnecessary than usual. Thankfully, they’re served alongside probably the five or six best action sequences in the franchise.
You wanted a John Wick movie? Here’s a John Wick movie.
It’s clear by now that both Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski know just what the audience wants. Just like previous outings, Chapter 4 is a film which wears its influences on its sleeve. This time round it almost feels like a classic western – Reeves says about eight words across the entire runtime, and most of those are ‘yeah’ – while the neo-noir neon aesthetic and Hong-Kong action movie choreography are as beautiful as ever.
Where it gets a tad exhausting is in the moments between the punches, when people stop falling out of windows just long enough to explain some new facet of the ridiculous assassin-economy before they’re shot in the head. Where the backdrop of The Continental and its denizens was inventive window-dressing in the first film, by now it can’t help but feel a little stale, with dialogue falling out of characters’ mouths with a clunk that doesn’t even convey its information quickly. Where something like The Raid finds innovative ways to change up the film’s pace without scrimping on action, John Wick: Chapter 4 stops and starts throughout the first two acts in a way that can’t help but leave you tapping your foot until the big guns come back out.
Wick’s mission suffers from a similar level of bloat, though, and if the franchise has been missing anything since its exceptional debut, it’s the simple stakes of a straightforward revenge story. “To have a good death,” a character intones at one point, “you must first have a good life.” Unfortunately, three films after his initial revenge arc ended, it’s very hard to see why we want John Wick to stay alive at all. Well, apart from him being Keanu, naturally.
Rage-inducing though the talkie bits are, it’s hard to stay mad at John Wick: Chapter 4 for too long. After all, it’s hardly a series known for its poetry, and for every weirdly-directed dialogue scene comes a group of goons with a new kind of armour/weapon/bizarre accent for Keanu to stab in the neck. The action here really is a series highlight; it’s so good that you just wish there were some genuine stakes to go along with it. The third act in particular is nothing short of spectacular, but an ending which should be bittersweet instead feels a little shallow.
John Wick: Chapter 4 includes some of the best action sequences of the 21st century, but the film never quite lives up to its stunts. For fans of the franchise, though, it’s unlikely to disappoint. Just try not to throw any of the poor cinema staff down the stairs on your way out.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is in cinemas on 24th March.
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