John Wick: Chapter 4 is longer, bolder, and features everything brilliant about what makes this action series so genius.
John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on March 22, 2023
Rating 4.5 /5
Keanu Reeves continues as the unstoppable assassin John Wick in this fourth chapter. Saying this sequel is more of the same doesn’t feel like an insult since the past few films have been near-flawless action films. They’ve been filled with elaborate choreography, heavy on violence, stylish with locations, engrossing with atmosphere, and refined in one man's plot against a criminal network. In other words, Chapter 4 continues making each entry in John Wick better than the last.
What makes this chapter particularly interesting is that Wick has to fight smarter this time. While his quest to prove that the corrupt High Table can’t get away with everything, he’s been driven to kill everybody in his way. He may not have considered how his actions would affect others who serve the High Table. The film opens with Continental of New York City suffering the consequences, where the manager Winston Scott (Ian McShane) and the concierge Charon (Lance Reddick) are punished for not getting rid of Wick. A similar punishment later befalls the Japanese Continental, where Wick seeks guidance from his old friend Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada). While slaughtering many assassins, John finds his battle is becoming more personal.
Finding new ways to strike at John instead of sending hordes of hitmen his way is Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), one of the most powerful members of the High Table. He’s smart enough to know that getting rid of John is more than just wiping out one guy; it’s about sending a message that nobody can challenge his authority. In addition to upping the bounty on Wick’s head, Vincent hires some expert assassins with connections to the assassins. Caine (Donnie Yen) is a blind High Table assassin with a history with Wick and a daughter worth protecting. So when the High Table threatens her safety, Caine reluctantly goes on the hunt.
In addition to Caine being a conflicted assassin for John to kill, there are other unlikely hitmen John starts feeling for. The greedy Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson) operates only for money and is an expert at tracking down John. Every time he finds John, Nobody demands an enormous bounty. His greed would make him an easy side-antagonist for Wick to gun down…if it weren’t for the fact that Nobody owns a dog. Not just any dog, but an assassin dog who is skilled at biting bad guys in the genitals. How could John possibly want to kill a fellow dog owner considering the loss of his dog brought on this whole quest for revenge?
As with every John Wick entry, this grandest highlight of the film is the over-the-top fight scenes that are stylish, long, and exceptionally brutal. John goes on the offense with a heavy allotment of weapons, ranging from guns to blades to nunchucks. The body count rises so high as waves of assassins combat in the most vibrant locations, including a decadent Japanese hotel and a neon-drenched German club. It shouldn’t surprise any fan that this film continues the abundance of brutality served up like a gorgeous ballet of the violent. And yet it still impresses just as much by becoming an intoxicating ride of non-stop carnage that is so meticulously assembled.
What makes this entry more engaging, beyond a fantastic battle amid oncoming traffic in Paris, is how the narrative brilliantly culminates its overarching plot about combatting unjust structures. Wick’s battle is no longer one of revenge but an ongoing fight against a system that feels it can get away with anything. The penultimate fight, where Wick ascends a seemingly endless series of stairs to reach his goals, portrays this best and is intense and eye-popping brilliant in its staging.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is longer, bolder, and features everything brilliant about what makes this action series so genius. It raises the stakes and intensity to such a degree that it’s fantastic a film series has this much energy and thrills after four pictures. Chapter 4 isn’t just another stellar entry in the series; it makes this a near-perfect quadrillogy, praise that few film series ever reach.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.