Star Rating:

John Wick: Chapter 4

Director: Chad Stahelski

Actors: Keanu Reeves, Bill Skarsgård, Donnie Yen

Release Date: Friday 24th March 2023

Genre(s): Action, Crime, Thriller

Running time: 169 minutes

Outraged by his ability to survive and defy the High Table, the Marquis (Bill Skarsgard) orders a retired assassin (Donnie Yen) to find and kill John Wick (Keanu Reeves). With the help of some old friends (Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane, Hiroyuki Sanada), Wick travels across the globe in a desperate attempt to rid himself of his past and escape the High Table before it's too late...

The first 'John Wick' was defined by its elegant simplicity. It put action - well-choreographed, tightly executed, brilliantly staged action - front and centre. The story around it was simple, but effective. A retired assassin goes on a rampage when someone kills his pet dog. Anyone can relate to that. The second 'John Wick' widened the scope, bringing in the dark underworld from which he came and spinning up new characters. The third 'John Wick' slotted into that world and kept the action rattling along with the same intensity, but the fear going into 'John Wick: Chapter 4' is how can it possibly continue with this level of intensity.

If the first 'John Wick' was a study in minimalism, 'John Wick: Chapter 4' is the case for maximalism. Everything is bigger, shinier, more, more and more of it. The cast is stacked with action icons - Donnie Yen, Scott Adkins, Hiroyuki Sanada - who all have meaty roles with huge action setpieces. The movie takes place in Paris, Berlin, Morocco, Osaka, and New York, with unique colour palettes and intricately decorated sets designed for each and every one of them. There's an extended car battle sequence set at the Arc de Triomphe, a battle between armoured, gun-toting samurai and ninjas in Japan, a brutal fight between Keanu Reeves and Scott Adkins inside a nightclub, and a sword duel to the death between Donnie Yen and Hiroyuki Sanada on a moonlit night in Japan. Oh, and if all that wasn't enough, there's a whole sequence that is inspired directly by the videogame 'Hotline Miami'.

Pushing the three-hour mark, 'John Wick: Chapter 4' has more than some issues with pacing and connectivity issues, but you forget about it because you're just caught up in the wildness and the audacity of it all. Without even reading an interview, you can tell that both Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahleski are determined to draw a line under the series with this. It's the willingness to go to the extreme with everything - to push every action setpiece to be bigger, better, and dare we even say it, sometimes a little longer than it needs to be. The additions of Donnie Yen, Scott Adkins, and newcomer Rina Sawayama are all welcome, but it's still Keanu Reeves ready and willing to hurl himself through every bit of plate glass he can find that makes it so compelling.

The only other meaningful competition that 'John Wick' has had as an action series in recent years has been 'Mission: Impossible', led by fellow ageless wonder Tom Cruise. Yet, with the Cruiser reaching sexagenarian status and Reeves two years behind him, both action series are winding down this year and one can't help but wonder if this is it for action cinema as we've come to know it. After 'John Wick' and 'Mission: Impossible', there isn't anything else coming up the hill after them. Sure, there are indie efforts like 'Lost Bullet' and its sequel, Gareth Evans' so-so TV series 'Gangs of London', but nothing with the same kind of gusto.

Studios aren't willing to risk unique, original ideas and they aren't making actors like Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves anymore. What's more, the kind of budget and excess that's on display in 'John Wick: Chapter 4' is now entirely kept to comic-book movies with recognisable heroes and comfortable, easy-to-please audiences. Where else could you possibly hope to see a ten-minute fight sequence up the steps of Sacré-Cœur with two titans of eastern and western action cinema?

We may never see the likes of this kind of movie again, and we will never know how good we had it.