John Wick: Chapter 4- SXSW 2023 Review
March 17th, 2023
MOVIE: JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4
STARRING: KEANU REEVES, DONNIE YEN, BILL SKARSGARD, LAURENCE FISHBURNE, IAN MCSHANE
DIRECTED BY: CHAD STAHELSKI
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
John Wick: Chapter 4 establishes that the series about a man dressed in an all-black suit and exacting revenge for the death of his wife and dog is one of the best action series of all time. Right behind is Mission: Impossible or The Raid, but what director Chad Stahelski and lead hero Keanu Reeves continue to achieve is pure action movie ecstasy. Chapter 4 picks up where Chapter 3- Parabellum had left us, with Wick having no protection from The High Table, and a mark on his head for a constantly raising million-dollar amount. John Wick: Chapter 4 goes globally to Paris, with wilder fight sequences, car chases, and a lot of gunfire. These movies just keep getting better and there’s a strong argument that Chapter 4 is the best John Wick yet.
The screen opens to a shot of a bloody fist punching a wood board. The resounding thud reverberates in our ears. In enters Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) asking Mr. Wick if he’s ready to begin. Our hero slowly turns, glares up through his long strands of pitch black hair, delivering that gruff Keanu stare, “Yeah”. And so we begin. Stahelski, who has directed all four installments now, clearly has had things mapped out, and allows his hero to truly have an arc unlike any revenge hero. His direction is often flawless, with a clear vision of how he wants to blend neon cinematography, samurai sword fighting, kung-fu action, and even David Lean’s visuals of his sprawling epic Lawrence of Arabia. It’s safe to say that Stahelski has the film education that spans generations and genres, which makes John Wick an uncanny action hero.
Narratively, Chapter 4 is an uphill climb, as the vicious Marquis (Bill Skarsgard) is pouring gasoline on the hunt for Mr. Wick, forcing John to look for refuge with old friends. He starts in Japan, visiting the Continental Hokkaido, run by old friend Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada). Those who follow are a collection of highly skilled assassins, that includes expert marksman Tracker (Shamier Anderson) and the blind but extremely deadly Cain (Donnie Yen). The game begins with various henchmen fighting John as he leaves a trail of dead bodies, constantly moving, and assisted by others who want to claim the bounty.
Although the momentum may be slow to some at first, what makes Chapter 4 as spectacular as I am claiming is how Stahelski paces his action. The screenplay, written by Shay Hatten and Michael Finch, understands where John Wick has been and what we are building to. Opening sequences are just the light seasoning of where things are headed. A fight scene in an abandoned house with cinematography from above is spectacular. A mix of fist fighting and cars circling the Arc de Triomphe is one of the greatest action sequences of all time. A later battle with a bruising Scott Adkins in a water soaked nightclub. And the climactic finale which will have audiences feeling every strike that Mr. Wick can take. It may seem at a slower pace at first but it is an action built on epic proportions.
With a nearly three-hour run-time, one might think that John Wick: Chapter 4 is excessive or too long, but that is never the case. It moves with blazing speed. And if the fight choreography can seem repetitive or clunky that’s because Wick’s battle style has always been messy. This isn’t flawless fighting. This is hard smashing action. It has all been done through the beautiful talents of Keanu Reeves. He gives Tom Cruise a run for being the lone action stars in the wild west of action cinema. You put all four of the John Wick’s together and it’s a flawless franchise. John Wick: Chapter 4 is bold and spectacular. Nobody does it better than the Baba Yaga.
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 IS IN THEATERS FRIDAY MARCH 24TH, 2023
Written by: Leo Brady