John Wick: Chapter 4 review | Uneven sequel offers more lucrative action scenes, but little else whynow (2024)


It’s wild to think that although we have been enjoying the John Wick franchise for nearly a decade, in the film’s alternate universe it’s only been a matter of weeks (maybe months) since a group of Russian criminals stole John Wick’s car and killed his puppy. Since then, we’ve learned a great deal about the High Table, a highly powerful criminal organisation, but very little about Wick himself. John Wick: Chapter 4 isn’t here to remedy that either, but it does once again broaden our understanding of the criminal underworld.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum ended with Winston (Ian McShane) shooting John Wick (Keanu Reeves) but Wick lives on, much to the chagrin of the High Table who want him dead. Wick has become a very annoying, prominent thorn in their flesh and despite issuing a hefty paycheck of millions to whoever kills Wick, no one has had such luck.

Chapter 4, from the very beginning, positions itself as the final chapter in Wick’s story. One character notes that Wick can only find freedom in death, but Wick has no plans of being dead, just free of the High Table’s grip. We have a new villain, Marquis de Gramont who really, REALLY wants Wick dead, but Wick decides to challenge him head-on. We have ourselves an old-fashioned duel!

The John Wick franchise has made action into an art form. These films have made action sequences into a vital part of the plot and each consecutive film, while also adding an extra 30 minutes to the runtime, has only upped the ante when it comes to the action. They have always been imaginative, clean and accurate, which is why it’s a shame that Chapter 4 has some of the best as well as the most uneven action in the franchise.

There is also a digital sheen to Chapter 4, literally and metaphorically. It’s much more slick and stylish than its already very highly stylised predecessors but it’s lost almost all of the gritty realism that made the previous films so compelling. We no longer see Wick bleeding or getting patched up. He does, however, fall three floors from a window and bounce off a van into the street and walk off with only the tiniest detectable limp.

Of course, action films like John Wick don’t have to always operate under or even be guided by the laws of physics but in all honesty, Wick should be dead. Or at least very badly injured. He seems to have almost superhuman strength here and seemingly endless ammunition. Previous films have made a point of showcasing Wick reloading his gun in the most imaginative of ways but Chapter 4 mostly abandons this.

If anything, Chapter 4 involves the least amount of gun fights in the franchise. An early, lengthy sequence set in the Osaka Continental is perhaps the best action sequence in the entire franchise, but the middle section of the film lags badly. Things pick up once the action moves to Paris and the final 30 minutes of the film is an exhilarating affair. A fight involving a very big set of stairs is a particularly fun thing to witness, but John Wick: Chapter 4 could have easily cut down its mammoth, near three-hour runtime.

John Wick: Chapter 4 review | Uneven sequel offers more lucrative action scenes, but little else whynow (2)

credit: Lionsgate

Reeves barely has any lines, but then again, is anyone buying a ticket to watch John Wick wax lyrical about this or that? No, we want to see him kick ass and John Wick: Chapter 4 delivers on that. Donnie Yen is fantastic as Wick’s opposing, reluctant assassin and he is granted some of the best action scenes in the film. Shamier Anderson joins the cast in the role of the mysterious ‘Tracker’ but there doesn’t seem to be enough room for him in the already overstuffed film that has more ideas than it knows what to do with.

It’s also always a delight to see Hiroyuki Sanada in an action film of this calibre, but it’s Bill Skarsgård who nearly steals the show as the new villain, the Marquis. His precise, considered performance counteracts the film’s sillier aspects and Reeve’s fantastically camp performance. The late, great Lance Reddick also gets a proper send-off in his final completed film role.

John Wick: Chapter 4 never reaches the highs of the franchise’s best instalments but if this is the end for Reeves’ deadly hitman – the door is being left open for a spinoff with Sanada’s daughter and Osaka Continental’s concierge as well as for future John Wick appearances – we are going out on a high. With wickedly fun and lucrative action set pieces, this is first class entertainment for the masses, but the first John Wick reigns supreme.

John Wick: Chapter 4 is in cinemas 24 March.

John Wick: Chapter 4 review | Uneven sequel offers more lucrative action scenes, but little else whynow (2024)
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