Since 2014, few action movie franchises have been able to stand next to the John Wick movie series. With each entry to Keanu Reeves‘ titular assassin saga, we get more ballistics, bullets flying over our heads and lore into the underbelly of the global criminal organisation – The High Table. However, every story needs its closer, and in this series, the new movie John Wick: Chapter 4 ends things off with a visually stunning bang.
Directed by Chad Stahelski, John Wick: Chapter 4 follows directly from the events of the last movie in the franchise. After being shot off the roof of the New York Continental, John is pissed and determined to free himself from the cruel grip of The High Table once and for all. However, escaping The High Table is no easy feat, especially as he becomes the number one target of its new boss – Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård).
Travelling around the world and downing enemies in a glorious frenzy of fight scenes, Wick soon learns the only way to escape The High Table is by turning to the one thing it values more than anything else in this deadly world – rules. John begins setting up an old-fashioned duel, complete with firing pistols and honourable sensibilities. However, instead of facing his main movie villain, John is forced to stand off against his old friend, who is bound by a deal – the blind assassin Caine (Donnie Yen).
From the above summary, you can tell John Wick: Chapter 4 doesn’t hold back when it comes to giving us the drama. And this stretches from its story into its cinematography too. From the brilliant eye that brought us films such as The Shape of Water, and the horror movie Crimson Peak, Dan Laustsen’s cinematography in John Wick 4 is stylish, picturesque and captures a sense of beauty among all the punches, kicks and grunts.
Working with neon lights and playing with shadows, Reeves polished choreography perfectly blends with Laustsen’s vision, elevating John Wick’s final outing into a ballet for the eyes, where movement and adrenaline are placed centre first as the stars of the show. Reeves is again the perfect leading man – although he doesn’t say much – his physical presence is a joy to behold, as he weaves his way through scenes, gunning down every enemy in his way.
But for all its action movie splendour, John Wick 4 isn’t perfect. Let’s not beat around the bush here. Any thriller movie that is three hours long has an uphill battle with keeping audiences’ attention. And unfortunately, John Wick: Chapter 4’s magic is dulled by stretched-out scenes and its overindulgence to linger on dramatic shots.
Certain fight scenes, such as the confrontation in the Osaka Continental, last for minutes on end, in a single stationary place, without offering enough spectacle or new final blow moments to keep us hooked throughout. There are times when you are simply just waiting for fights to end so that the main story can progress, and for the first time in the entire John Wick series, I found myself dare I say, bored with some of Wick’s kills.
But, John Wick: Chapter 4 does manage to try and hide the lagging second act of its script with a spectacular final hour. Once we move into the meat of this movie’s conflict – the duel between John and Marquis Vincent de Gramont – all the action feels more purposeful, has a time limit, and is vastly tenser.
The top-down camera angles of John weaving his way through the streets and buildings of Paris to reach the final duel site are thrilling, and give us what the Osaka scenes couldn’t – fluidity and non-stop adrenaline. Similarly, the payoff of Wick’s journey hits harder as he is forced to face his friend Caine making the eventual final gunfight feel more monumental than any of Wick’s previous standoffs.
It is easy to fall into the trap of recency bias with John Wick 4 because its final moments are pretty much perfect. From the cinematography, an atmospheric score in all the right places, to a powerful conclusion in Wick’s personal’s story – it ends the franchise in the best way it ever could.
But, again, this final moment promotes recency bias as it wakes us up from previous tittering scenes of the film. I have to consider how long it took for the thriller movie to get to its applaud-worthy conclusion, and I can’t help but feel a tad bit dissatisfied. As a firm supporter of the action series, I can’t overlook the last hour’s majesty – however, I’m also fully aware that other film fans may not be so forgiving.
But whether you can stand its length or not, John Wick: Chapter 4 is an undeniably beautiful bullet-ridden ballet, and despite being overstuffed in places, has a script that does the titular character’s journey proud. In short, if your bladder can take it, it’s worth a watch.
John Wick: Chapter 4 hits theatres on March 24, 2023. For more information, check out how to watch John Wick 4. Or, for more crime, here is our list of the best spy movies of all time.
John Wick: Chapter 4 review
John Wick: Chapter 4 is a marathon, but one that long-time fans won’t want to miss.