- Release Date: – 23/03/2023
- Cast: – Keanu Reeves, Donny Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Hiroyuki Sanada
- Director: – Chad Stahelski
I have been a huge fan of the John Wick films. Every subsequent film in the franchise has got bigger, meaner, and more creative with its action sequences. However, the films have also got progressively mechanical. The heart and softness that made the mayhem of the first film stand out in such contrast with some of the other portions of the film were getting lost amid the hyperbolic action-violence in the sequels.
The one thing that I wanted from John Wick: Chapter 4 was for it to rediscover its emotional core and give us characters pitted against John Wick who had stakes just as high as Wick to fight him to death but were not necessarily bad guys. That would instantaneously create the kind of conflicts that would add a dash of character, unpredictability, heart, and in the end, melancholia to the already stupendous action sequences. That is exactly what John Wick: Chapter 4 aspires to achieve.
The story: –
The film starts exactly where Chapter 3 left off. We travel with John Wick (Keanu Reeves) to meet the new elder who willfully informs him that the only way he can ever be in peace and safe was in death. Wick shoots him in the head and so begins his endlessly escalating battle with the high table who appoint the nefarious Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) to finish off Wick using any means necessary. Marquis —a privileged and blinded by wealth and power at his disposal enforcer— not only throws an array of interesting and conflicting killers at John Wick to finish him off but also in his blind hatred and pompous pride agrees to something that gives Wick a last ray of hope to walk out of the predicament alive.
The nearly 3-hours runtime is never felt: –
John Wick: Chapter 4 is nearly 3 hours long and yet feels like a breeze. The film is so well structured that it becomes extremely easy for the audiences to keep drawing parallels and connecting the various aspects of the story easily.
For an adventure that spans different locations like Osaka, Berlin, and Paris and wherein similar action sequences, numerous elements, and tracks are running parallel, it feels oddly simple and lucid to follow.
The action is just out of this world: –
The action in this instalment not only gets bigger but also gets a lot bloodier and unbelievably physical. The ones who are expecting something new and different in terms of the action might be a little disappointed since the style and execution of the action sequences remains the same as the previous John Wick films. However, the scale that the action aspires for and the various set pieces that we get to experience using the tried and tested formulae of the John Wick franchise makes it unbelievably entertaining and sometimes shocking to watch.
When I speak of the action in this film, I have to mention two specific action sequences that unfold in the two halves of the film that blew me away with their respective scale, mounting, execution and choreography. The first that unfolded in Osaka felt like 30 minutes long but I am sure was shorter. This sequence escalated from being a fight for survival inside a hotel to being one wherein John makes his way slowly through the hotel so that he can kill as many people as possible. All this is to keep his promise to a dear fallen friend. This sequence unfolds in three distinct tracks and yet is so beautifully edited that the three tracks come together to deliver such an impact that it leaves you asking for more.
The next insane bit of action happens in the middle of Paris traffic where you witness John fights through an entire city where cars and people are coming at him with unprecedented violence and ferocity. The way he conducts himself through this mess and how he moves to the next location of the ensuing battle is a masterclass on how to choreograph, shoot and edit an escalating and constantly moving action sequence in its breathtaking physicality and rawness. The next bit of the same fight that unfolds inside a building caught me completely off-guard by how it is envisioned and captured. This was especially the case with the overhead shots of the action where John clears one room after another using an odd shotgun that was established earlier in the film.
The next portion of the same sequence unfolds on a flight of stairs which will be remembered by action fans for eternity. We see John Wick take one of the longest tumbles down a stair that one has ever seen in motion picture history and then stand up again to fight his way back to the top of the stairs for a standoff. The climactic duel is one of the tensest action sequences that I have seen in years.
The performances and the interpersonal drama work surprisingly well and feel poignant: –
Having written so much already about the action of the film, I don’t want my readers to believe that John Wick: Chapter 4 is all about action. It is as much about the interpersonal drama between the characters as it is about the action. The nearly 3-hour runtime allows Chad Stahelski (director) to flesh out his characters; Even the minor ones and give them a distinct feel and emotional weight.
Keanu Reeves brings out a version of the character of John Wick who is still extremely dangerous and nearly impossible to kill but who is also evidently getting tired of all the mayhem and probably wants to end it all and die peacefully but on his own terms. I loved his essay to the core and appreciated his seamless transition from the action to the dramatic bits and then back to the action. With the John Wick franchise, Reeves has left his indelible mark on the action-adventure landscape of Hollywood.
Hiroyuki Sanada plays Shimazu, one of John Wick’s oldest remaining friends, who has to put in line everything that he holds dear for giving John Wick a safe heaven when he is hunted by the rest of the world. He has to endure huge personal loses and still stands his ground against the high table. He sums up his actions by saying that friendship doesn’t always blossom under favourable circumstances and no matter how unfavourable the situation might get, one needs to honour the basic tenets of friendship. These words come at a moment when he is faced with dire circumstances and hence feels extremely poignant. Sanada is his usual brilliant self and even in such a small essay, he leaves an indelible mark on the entire narrative.
Donny Yen plays Caine, a blind assassin who is nearly as lethal as John Wick and is brought in by the high table to kill John Wick in exchange for his freedom from the underworld and the lifelong assurance of his daughter’s safety. If he fails, his daughter will be killed. Caine was also an old friend of John’s and knows him better than most. Yen plays the character with the perfect feeling and mannerisms that make it obvious that he is conflicted and tortured to go after his old friend but what is at stake for him is too valuable to squander for not killing an old friend. He has more to lose by not killing John Wick than John Wick has by dying. Thus, with the baggage of this knowledge looming on their psyches, every exchange between the two is characterized by intelligent and meaningful dialogues, foreboding gloom, and knowledge of the tragedy to come. Yen and Reeves share an exceptional chemistry that reaches its crescendo at the climax of the film.
Bill Skarsgård is brilliant as the over-privileged but ultimately vain and inefficient enforcer who throws everything at his disposal to kill Wick. With every scene, his frustration grows and it is amusing to watch him go overboard after every failure. Skarsgård has been brilliant in playing negative characters and this will be another worthy addition to his list of memorable antagonists. Shamier Anderson as Mr. Nobody who is excited to kill John Wick but only under specific circumstances and has a dog with him at all times is interesting. His character is the most unpredictable and you never know when he will change sides and for what. Anderson is flawless in his rendition of the character.
The best-looking John Wick film to date: –
John Wick: Chapter 4 is easily the most beautiful John Wick film to date. The cinematography is able to capture the true essence and beauty of the varied locales that the story travels to and elevates the storytelling to a level wherein it starts impacting the overall feel, drama, and dynamics of the sequences.
I was in awe of the lighting and the colour grading of the film and could only wonder how it was executed with such perfection in the action sequences owing to the ballistic nature of the action and how swiftly it moved from one topography to another. The editing of the film complements the screenplay and how the character development is approached. While the film is nearly 3 hours long, you will not feel a thing as every shot in it is where it should be and is as long as it needed to be.
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Final words: –
John Wick: Chapter 4 is the most brutal, visceral, beautiful, emotionally rewarding and entertaining John Wick film of the franchise. It is undeniably the most John Wick of all the John Wick films. The film ends with a promise of a lot more to come in the future and that is something that I would be looking forward to with batted breath.
Rating: – 5/5 (5 out of 5 Stars)
The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not reflect EastMojo’s position.
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