Movie review: John Wick Chapter 4, a most excellent Adventure
This isn’t just the best film of the series, it’s up there with the best action movies ever made…
We’re four movies into the Baba Yaga saga now. Four movies, a mountain of dead henchmen and corpses of cash grabbing assassins, countless intuitively improvised weapons and millions of dollars worth of architectural and home contents damage. And it all could have been avoided if Lilly Allen’s brother hadn’t botched the home invasion that killed John Wick’s dog.
You check out any time you want, but you can never leave
And because we’re four, arguably quite similar, movies in — even before the preview screening, we already had a pretty clear idea about what sort of film we’d be getting. John Wick (Keanu Reeves), the jilted Russian mob hitman, who was denied his dream of hanging up the piano wire and living a peaceful life, would surely embark on the next stage of his revenge crusade against the shadowy global crime syndicate, The Table.
We could be fairly certain that old mate John, despite assistance from a few old friends, would be facing ‘Battle of Thermopylae’ ratios, essentially a one-man army fighting against a foe with almost limitless resources. We knew there would be inventive methods of un-aliving, uncharitable acts with household untensils, bullet proof suits, Keanu Reeves’ trademark starch-hipped wounded hobble, car chases, sword fights, gruff knowing one-liners, brief sabbatical of calm in between intense action sequences and all-too-well-deserved comeuppances getting got.
We knew all this in advance, we were prepared and yet when the entertainment hurricane of John Wick Chapter 4 made landfall, it still blew us away. It is by some measure the best entry, in an abnormally strong quartet of action movies.
A million ways to die
The events of Chapter 4, begin a short while after the concluding scenes of Parabellum (Chapter 3). John Wick has been convalescing and hitting the bag in the Bowry King’s (Laurence Fishburne) subterranean lair. But, as they say — there is no rest for the boogeyman, John’s friends are being threatened and revenge is a dish best-served piping hot and with a swift chop to the windpipe.
Tickets to the gun show
For number four, the antagonistic focal point is ‘The Marquis’, a deliciously sociopathic champion acting as ‘fixer’ for The Table, and played with Joffrey-esque malevolent reverence by Bill “Pennywise” Skarsgård. In addition to legions of armored goons proficient in marshall arts and plate glass stumbling, The Marquis has enlisted the help of a mega-potent blind assassin, and an old friend of John’s, Caine (played by Kung -Fu legend Donnie Yen).
And that’s pretty much it, in terms of the set-up — what we’re looking at is just the next level of a compelling modern-day Ronin story brought to us by cinema’s nicest nice guy. So where does the hype come from..?
A most excellent adventure
A major part of the beauty of John Wick has always been the bloody ballet of its fight scenes. Drawn out, diverse, violent — sure, but never gratuitously or obnoxiously so. All four movies have been directed by ex-stunt man and accomplished martial artist, Chad Stahelski (who, just as a measure of property value, is now attached to 14 ‘upcoming’ projects as helmsman on IMDB).
In Chapter Four we see the polished form of the mettle that has been forged through episodes one to three — the movie is three hours long, there are no distracting sub plots or romantic interludes, and because of the HIIT pacing, the visual eloquence, the rise and fall, the poetry of movement in the action set-pieces, your in-screen time flies by.
One of the most memorable sequences, is a (seemingly) one-shot, birdseye POV of John Wick moving from room to room, picking off his targets with trademark ruthlessness. And it is an immediate entry into action movie scene hall of fame.
At our Wick’s end
There is definitely more John Wick content coming. Currently on track for 2024, Ballerina will be a spin-off movie featuring the superb Ana de Armas as a sort of Villanelle character. There are also plans for a ‘Continental‘ (that’s the name of the consecrated hotel of choice for the assassin community) prequel series. And then there is the great debate, will the core John Wick series be a five parter or a four parter?
On that topic, in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Stahelski said “Wicks always, for some weird reason, always get the latest release date in Japan … we’ll do a Japanese tour and release the movie [John Wick Chapter 4] in September. Keanu and I will take the long trip to Tokyo, we’ll sit in the Imperial Hotel Scotch Bar and go, “What do you think?” We’ll have a couple of 20-year-old whiskies and write some ideas on napkins. If those ideas stick, maybe we’ll make a movie.”
Verdict: Personally I don’t think it’s in John Wick to stop before fire rains from the sky and The Table has been well and truly flipped. But if this truly is the last we’ve seen of Baba Yaga, it’s one spectacular way to say sayonara.
John Wick releases in cinemas across the UAE on April 20. You can book tickets here.