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Movie Review - Lionsgate's John Wick: Chapter 4

No way back. One way out.

John Wick: Chapter 4 is a 2023 neo-noir action thriller film directed by Chad Stahelski, written by Shay Hatten and Michael Finch, produced by Summit Entertainment, Thunder Road Pictures, and 87Eleven Productions, and distributed by Lionsgate. It stars Keanu Reeves and Donnie Yen. This is the fourth film in the John Wick franchise. It was preceded by John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum. A sequel is in development.


"And so it begins." - Winston Scott

Plot


After running from the High Table for what seems like forever, John Wick is finally offered a way out of the assassin lifestyle. To get out, John must challenge a powerful new enemy to High Table duel, and, win or lose, he is done.


The Sweet


John Wick: Chapter 4 is the most action action movie I have ever seen.


Diehard John Wick fans will love this movie. It's nearly three hours long, and I'd say two out of those hours are filled with action. And it's really, really good. In early reviews, people have been calling this some of the best action ever put to film, and, while I do not agree with that, I can see where they are coming from. The stunts are fantastic. The fight choreography is very exciting. The set pieces are grandiose and epic. This feels more martial arts than any of the other John Wick movies. If you love action movies, I highly recommend this film, because it's almost entirely action.


I think the best new addition to the franchise is Donnie Yen's Caine. I really enjoyed Yen in Rogue One, and he brings a different kind of vibe and charisma to the film. Not only does he have the coolest fighting style and best action scenes in the movie, but he also has a solid arc that really makes his character feel fleshed out. His relationship with John Wick is complex and layered, and I really enjoyed that aspect.


Chad Stahelski also brings his A-game here. I don't love the John Wick movies, but I think that Stahelski has always done a great job with this neo-noir element of these films. Here, he includes the noir and the cool, slick shots, but he also really does a fantastic job with the action sequences. They are shot beautifully with tons of long takes and wide angles. It makes them all the more exciting.


And I'll give them this: they added a little bit of emotion into this movie. Not anything that will get the tears flowing. Not anything that will even really fully tug at your heartstrings. But they let John Wick feel more human in this film, and it adds an element that I didn't know I was missing in these movies.


I also think that the final duel is the best part of the movie. I obviously won't go in to details, but the sequence is very tense and is filled with some great character moments. The eventual result of the duel had my entire theater cheering. It was a very satisfying finale. They pulled off all of the story and plot elements you wanted them to while also delivering an exciting, tense sequence. It was great.


The Sour


I am in the complete minority here, but I really didn't like this movie.


John Wick: Chapter 4 is two hours and forty-nine minutes long. That's forty minutes longer than any of the other John Wick movies. And those extra forty minutes are all action. No story. No character development. Action. The story of this movie does not merit a three-hour runtime. And, for me, adding a lot more action didn't really fix that. In fact, I think it made it worse.


While I think the action is fun and great, it gets bloated and exhausting after a while. These action sequences are LONG. There are three major action sequences in the film that feel like they go on for thirty or forty minutes without a break. This movie has more punches thrown than it does lines of dialogue. That's insane. And it gets old after a while. You can only watch John Wick shoot someone in the face so many times before it starts to get repetitive. It just drags out the runtime of the movie and sucks out a lot of the entertainment value.


I also am getting tired of a trope that these movies have. I get it. John Wick is your main character. You cannot kill him because a henchman shoots him or hits him with a car. However, over the course of five minutes, John gets thrown off a building and violently hits the ground and then is hit by at least five cars. And he's completely fine. Not a scratch. Yet, when a henchman is hit by a ONE car, their entire body twists in ways it isn't supposed to and they die in horrific ways. That's frustrating. And it made the action even less exciting.


And, while I love the duel at the end, I absolutely despise the final few minutes of this movie. They do something here that is going to be very divisive. I think what they do makes no sense. In light of what we've seen throughout the film and throughout the franchise, what happens at the end of this movie is simply not believable. I also think it's just a lame ending.


Bill Skarsgård plays our main antagonist here, and I really was not a fan of his character. Skarsgård is a fantastic actor that can be absolutely terrifying. He is Pennywise, for God's sake. And he feels really underutilized. Instead of being an intimidating mastermind, he serves more as a personification of the High Table, which doesn't work. He isn't a conniving villain. He's just a servant of the High Table. There's no development. There's nothing there besides Bill Skarsgård's personality. He just felt like a plot device, which isn't a good thing when this is supposed to be the main villain.


Speaking of underutilized characters, Charon and the Bowery King have basically nothing to do in this movie. I hated the way that they treated both of them. Charon is one of my favorite characters in the franchise, and what they do with his character is just terrible. They wasted both Lance Reddick and Laurence Fishburne's talent while just not using two of the best characters in the franchise. Had they not been in this movie, nothing would really change. I hate that.


And the story is just bad. I think the idea of the duel is interesting, but that idea isn't introduced until an hour into the movie. The first hour is just more of what Parabellum was, which I don't like. That already makes it a mess, but they also introduce pointless characters. There's two new characters specifically who are introduced and seem like they are going to be major players in the film, but don't end up doing anything. The first is Akira, the concierge of the Osaka Continental. She is in the first hour and seems like she's going to be a big character, but then she just disappears from the movie. Like, what? The other is Shamier Anderson's character, the Tracker. He's a cool character, but he doesn't actually do anything significant for the plot. He's just another person that can fight, so he has to be in the movie.


I'm also confused, because this is not the final film in the John Wick franchise. Not only do they have a John Wick: Chapter 5 planned, but there's a spin-off TV show and movie coming. But the ending of this film implies that this is the final film in the franchise. The way that it ends just clearly seems like a conclusion to the story of these first four films. And, while I hate the way that they ended it, it's still a conclusion. But they've green-lit two spin-offs and a sequel? I don't know, guys. Something is weird about that. This criticism may go away in the future, but for right now, I'm very, very confused.


Final Thoughts and Score


John Wick: Chapter 4 is an overblown action-fest. Some people will love that. Others, like me, don't. A lack of story and character development alongside a terrible ending make this the worst of the series for me.


I will go Sour here. Age range is 13+.


SWEET N' SOUR SCALE

Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)


"John Wick: Chapter 4"


Fun Factor: 6/10

Acting: 6/10

Story: 3/10

Characters: 5/10

Quality: 5/10


Directed by Chad Stahelski


Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, disturbing themes and images, thematic elements


Released on March 17, 2023


2 hours and 49 minutes


Keanu Reeves as John Wick

Donnie Yen as Caine

Bill Skarsgård as The Marquis Vincent de Gramont

Ian McShane as Winston Scott

Shamier Anderson as The Tracker / Mr. Nobody

Hiroyuki Sanada as Shimazu Koji

Clancy Brown as The Harbinger

Laurence Fishburne as The Bowery King

Lance Reddick as Charon

Rina Sawayama as Akira

Scott Adkins as Killa

Natalia Tena as Katia

Marko Zorar as Chidi

George Georgiou as The Elder

Bridget Moynahan as Helen Wick

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