Movie Review: ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ boasts impressive action, fails to meet expectations

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‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ first hit theaters on March 24. (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

When “John Wick,” directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch and starring Keanu Reeves, was released to the public in 2014, the film’s creators had no knowledge of whether the hard-hitting, dog-revenge action movie would resonate with audiences. Flash forward to 2023, and “John Wick: Chapter 4” comes to theaters, receiving better reviews and earning almost the same amount of money the first film made in its first weekend.

“John Wick: Chapter 4” takes everything that fans love about the series and dials it up to eleven. While this works most of the time, when it doesn’t work, it slows the film down to a crawl.

The fourth installment picks up right after the third film of the franchise “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” ends. Wick is on the run from the High Table underground society and seeking a way to defeat them, hoping to finally escape from the world of assassins.

“Chapter 4” introduces the audience to new characters within this world. Standouts include the legendary Donnie Yen as Caine, a blind assassin and old friend of John. Another amazing performance is Rina Sawayama as Akira: in every scene that Sawayama is in, she either is making the audience laugh, making them care for her character or kicking butt.

Returning characters also make appearances, such as Ian McShane’s Winston and the late, great Lance Reddick as Charon. Each character, new or old, adds a new dynamic to John’s life. This allows the audience to care for the characters while they fight each other, something other current action movies fail at.

The fight choreography is the best it has ever been in the “John Wick” franchise. All four films revolutionized how to shoot action scenes. “Gun-fu” is the term creators use to describe the fighting style, which is a gunfight resembling martial arts. Reeves dedicated himself to the craft and performed 90 percent of his own stunts. This allows the filmmakers to block and create action sequences without using quick edits, something recent action movies are known for.

“Chapter 4” also uses its wide variety of locations across the globe as set pieces for the fight scenes, including the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the desert in Jordan, Osaka, New York City and many other iconic spots that each create unique cinematography and set design.

While the film does work on many levels, some things do not work as well.

The main villain of this installment, the Marquis Vincent de Gramont, played by Bill Skarsgård, is a decently written villain with understandable motivations. But for most of the film, I had trouble understanding what he was saying, as Skarsgard played him with a very thick French accent. At certain points throughout the film, the action does get repetitive, and I found myself asking when particular scenes would end.

However, overall, “John Wick: Chapter 4” is a well-made action movie that is far better than more than half the action films that have come out in the last 10 years, including the prior two John Wick films. But it cannot live up to the first one.