John Wick: Chapter 4 film poster and movie review

Movie Reviews

John Wick: Chapter 4

Reviewed by:
Luke Bonanno on March 19, 2023

Theatrical Release:
March 24, 2023

If you do not already see the entertainment value in this saga of a retired hitman drawn back into the deadly criminal world, "John Wick: Chapter 4" is not going to change your mind.

Running Time169 min


Running Time 169 min


Chad Stahelski

Shay Hatten, Michael Finch (screenplay); Derek Kolstad (characters)

Keanu Reeves (John Wick), Donnie Yen (Caine), Bill Skarsgård (Marquis Vincent de Gramont), Laurence Fishburne (Bowery King), Hiroyuki Sanada (Shimazu Koji), Shamier Anderson (Mr. Nobody), Lance Reddick (Charon), Rina Sawayama (Akira), Scott Adkins (Killa), Clancy Brown (Harbinger), Natalia Tena (Katia), Ian McShane (Winston Scott)

John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)

by Luke Bonanno

Retrospect makes it all the more impressive that Keanu Reeves had the good sense to turn down Speed 2. Apart from maybe Sylvester Stallone, no modern actor has held as much belief in franchises as Reeves. Reeves has made four Matrix movies and three Bill & Teds. Now we get the fourth installment of what has emerged as Reeves’ most iconic series of all, surprising since the Canadian actor turned 50 the fall it launched. In the past nine years, Reeves has defied aging and controversy with the same jaw-dropping showmanship that his now signature character John Wick has defied death.

When introduced in 2014, John Wick looked like a lot of other Keanu Reeves vehicles: a dark, brooding action thriller pitting a well-dressed man against the world. Without breaking the mold of that form, John Wick certainly set the standard, thanks in no small part to a better class of action overseen by stunt coordinator-turned-director Chad Stahelski. Stahelski and Reeves reunited for a sequel in 2017 and another in 2019, each longer, more ambitious, and higher grossing than the one before it.

And so, John Wick: Chapter 4 arrives this week with none of the embarrassment of an older actor clinging to past glories, but as simply the must-see movie of the season.

Johnwick chapter4 film 01

If you do not already see the entertainment value in this saga of a retired hitman drawn back into the deadly criminal world after the death of his wife and murder of his dog, Chapter 4 is not going to change your mind. Stahelski, Reeves, and Summit/Lionsgate have never considered reinvention on the property, instead coming up with imaginative new ways to keep John Wick on the run, against the odds, with a reason to keep defying death.

When you consider all the movie franchises that have disappointed their fanbases before coming to an end, the achievements of this enduring series are nothing to scoff at. The commercial benefits of brand recognition come with glaring creative challenges. How do you manage to give moviegoers more of what they like without simply repeating yourself? Stahelski and company have managed to do that by digging deeper into the alluring mythology they’ve established, exploring the upscale Continental Hotel, its relationship with the High Table (the global council of twelve crime lords), and the consequences of running afoul of either entity and its rigid traditions.

Despite eight and a half years passing in our world, Chapter 4 seems to take place mere weeks after the first film, which explains why so little has changed in these characters and their world.

In a nod to the real world of impact of foreign markets, John heads to Japan, where the manager of the Osaka Continental (Hiroyuki Sanada), who provides refuge and a much-needed ally. Scenes of close-range conflict occur early and often. One of them pits the Table’s modern firearms against the bows, arrows, and swords of Japanese foot soldiers. Another takes place in a museum of sorts and has John Wick adding nunchaku at length to his list of lethal weapons mastered (which the series will never let you forget includes “a fucking pencil”). Still another finds Wick squaring off with a bizarrely obese yet formidable ashthmatic kingpin (martial artist Scott Adkins in a convincing fat suit) in a techno club where rain machines pour and dancers pay no mind.

Johnwick chapter4 film 02

As always, the action remains creatively staged and executed with tact and vitality. At the same time, there is a numbing effect as the carnage inevitably grows even more outrageous and over the top. John Wick’s onscreen body count, documented by others to be around two hundred over the first three films, seems to double this time out, undoubtedly a death toll for the record books. At 169 minutes, there is enough here to fill another half of a movie and, for a while, you’ll wonder why the material wasn’t saved for the inevitable Chapter 5.

Regardless of the film’s considerable excess and the diminished impact that each improbable death-defying stunt wields (Wick is hit by and thrown into too many cars to count and tumbles down literally hundreds of stairs multiple times), Chapter 4 somehow never stops entertaining. There is enough of the cool, collected, gentlemanly battles of wits to provide meaning to and respite from the abundance of action set pieces. Scenes between John’s old school father figure Winston (Ian McShane) and yjr Marquis Vincent de Gramont (It‘s Pennywise, Bill Skarsgård), this sequel’s embodiment of evil, rank among the film’s most riveting. And the finale the film spends a solid hour leading up to, a sunrise duel that lets the franchise go full Western, does not disappoint.

Johnwick chapter4 film 03

After conceiving this world and penning the first three movies, Derek Kolstad curiously sits out this one, leaving Chapter 3 co-writer Shay Hatten to return and improve upon the immediate predecessor’s few shortcomings with help from new arrival Michael Finch (PredatorsAmerican Assassin).

While one reasonably assumes the box office numbers will stay steady if not continue to grow and the studio would keep making these, the next two projects on the horizon for this universe are Ballerina, a now in post-production spin-off starring Academy Award nominee Ana de Armas as the vengeful ballerina/assassin introduced in Chapter 3, and “The Continental”, a Starz limited series prequel set in the 1970s and centering on the young Winston’s rise to proprietor of the lower Manhattan hotel.

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