- Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane
- Chad Stahelski
- Action, Crime, Thriller
- Release date
- March 24, 2023
John Wick Chapter 4 has been long rumored to be the final chapter in the Wick Saga. If it holds true, is it a fitting ending to the Baba Yaga?
John Wick Chapter 4
Unless you are a pretentious pr!@k, like many critics can be, reviewing John Wick movies can be a challenge because they are intentionally not particularly substantive. Put simply, they are some of the best examples of stylized violence in the business. If the audience isn’t saying “that’s awesome” after virtually every other scene, then the movie has failed.
John Wick 4 does not fail…completely…but it is showing signs that it might be time to retire the franchise. At 2h 49m, it’s about 49 minutes too long and tries too hard to world-build and expand the almost mythological quality of the universe, ostensibly in an effort to bolster the studio’s planned spin-off projects. As a result, we get too many unimportant and uninteresting tertiary characters added, which lessens the screen time for already established supporting characters, overlong fight scenes that can grow monotonous, and virtually the entire 3rd film is rendered meaningless.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fantasy nerd, and I actually love that John Wick is a modern-day dungeon crawl in revenge-porn clothing, but it’s obvious that JW4 was originally designed as the final film and someone at the studio said, “but wait, there’s so much more money to be made.” So, one hour into the movie John’s entire motivation suddenly changes from wanting to kill the entire Table (the ruling body of the assassin’s guild) to wanting to kill one man and thereby once again be made free of the organization.
The only explanation given is that someone tells him that he can’t accomplish his preferred task and must switch goals. Mind you, he’d been doing just fine so up to that point.
This being said, I concede the fact that no one, myself included, is going to a John Wick movie because we are looking for high art. We want to see pulse-pounding action, cool guns, and creative fight scenes. John Wick 4 mostly delivers, however, its need to world build does slow the dopamine hits to a drip during the second act, and the fight choreography is drawn-out and not as tight as in previous installments.
There’s a video on Youtube that destroys the team-up fight with Rey and Kylo against the Snoke’s Praetorian Guards in The Last Jedi. Among other things, it shows how the stuntmen will do completely unnatural things to look busy when they should be attacking their target.
I admit that I needed to first see this video before I noticed the problems myself, but in John Wick 4, there are some easily seen and just egregious errors on the part of the stunt coordinators.
There’s one particular moment in the film’s first really big battle when John is facing off against two men at once, and he knocks one of them down and turns his attention to the other. Well, while his back is turned from the one he’d knocked down, the baddie in question gets back to his feet, takes a step forward, and appears to be readying for an attack. However, it clearly would have been the end of John because his back was completely exposed and John’s attention is 100% on the other attacker. So, the once-felled bad guy stops the half-step that he already took toward John and is suddenly stunned and wavering until John once again turns his attention toward him.
It’s incredibly noticeable and it’s not the only time that a fight or chase didn’t have the same fit and finish as other installments. Furthermore, trigger discipline is virtually nonexistent in this entry, which is a total shame because these movies are tailor-made for gun nuts, and it’s really distractingly bad.
On a related note, John’s kevlar suit now apparently renders him virtually invulnerable. He can now withstand bone-crushing falls and being hit by multiple cars traveling at high speeds. It serves to make him a less interesting character. In fact, his newfound nigh invulnerability in conjunction with his jarring 180° and arbitrary shift in motivation serves to make Donnie Yen’s blind ninja (aka Chirrut Îmwe from Rogue One) the only interesting character in the film.
Please don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot to like in John Wick Chapter 4. There’s a scene that takes place on some stairs for which the stuntman deserves whatever their version of an Oscar is. Moreover, The Matrix may have invented Gun-Fu, and Equilibrium may have tried to codify it, but John Wick perfected it. This entry continues that tradition.
My final thoughts on John Wick Chapter 4 is that, although it is far too long and chock full of convenience, it’s still a fun diversion that is worth the price of admission if you’re already a fan, but it’s also time to call it quits before we end up with Superman: A Quest For Peace. Unfortunately, it’s not good enough for our Worth it section.
- There are some intersectional casting checkboxes being filled in.
James Carrick is a passionate film enthusiast with a degree in theater and philosophy. James approaches dramatic criticism from a philosophic foundation grounded in aesthetics and ethics, offering insight and analysis that reveals layers of cinematic narrative with a touch of irreverence and a dash of snark.