'John Wick: Chapter 4' Review: You Don't Want To Mess With Keanu Reeves' Deadly Assassin
Are you ready to be wicked? I sure am. John Wick: Chapter 4, fourth film in the 'John Wick' action franchise that's based on Derek Kolstad's characters, simplifies its title after ''Parabellum'' but complicates everything else as it's determined to deliver two hours and 49 minutes of modern action filmmaking. Keanu Reeves returns as Wick himself, a hitman who now is hunted by his colleagues by the orders from the High Table and specifically its member Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) who also hires Wick's old friend Caine (Donnie Yen) to track him down. With help from hotel manager Winston (Ian McShane) and Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), Wick seeks revenge against High Table which then attracts the presence of Japanese hotel manager Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada), his daughter Akira (Rina Sawayama) and a nameless bounty hunter (Shamier Anderson).
Good news is that the hefty runtime comes with extreme precision when it comes to the action that director Chad Stahelski, Reeves and rest of the creative team have become known for ever since the first film premiered. The film's stunt choreography is simply a joy to witness, from vehicular stunts to fights and sometimes with weapons too, but the real impressive thing about it is that it all combines beautifully with other elements that film as a medium offers. Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard's score and other music choices are able to match that energy, such as in a memorable nightclub sequence, while the overall sound work (supervised by Mark P. Stoeckinger) makes sure that every hit, bruise and fall packs a punch which lets audiences really feel the severity of the conflict, even when it's so clearly heightened for cinematic purposes.
Reeves also continues to impress in the titular role and certainly doesn't show any signs of slowing down, all while getting solid backup from Yen, Sawayama and excellent stunt performers who put their bodies on the line. Their craft is just as controlled as DoP Dan Laustsen's cinematography which once again makes sure that the camera tracks those actors in a way that shows their efforts and commitment to do things as practically as possible. The lighting work is still miraculous as it never sacrifices quality of light or its intent to guide the viewer despite that neon colours can be tricky to pull off without using them purely for aesthetics and nothing else. One and only false note here is how Anderson is lit, showing that even when the work is exceptional, there can still be room for improvement in Laustsen's area of expertise.
Stahelski and the team try their hardest to fight back against storytelling problems by using locations really well—both for introducing characters and to elevate action sequences—but Shay Hatten and Michael Finch's script does have same issues that plagued the third entry as well. This franchise sadly cornered itself with world-building that's a bit too expansive and ridiculous; not only can you see some gun fights suffer from unrealistic scenarios but the writing also battles the basic premise of the film by way of distraction. Sure, you are distracted when the action is this good but you really don't want to evaluate the silliness of it all later. These last two films have been so close to being tremendous works of art in the action genre but you sure can do a lot worse than have several really great ones. Let's enjoy that, yeah?
Smileys: Stunt choreography, cinematography, sound editing, locations
Frowneys: Some issues with premise
You shouldn't be stairing.