People die. Keanu Reeves is forever. So it goes in John Wick: Chapter 4, a nearly three-hour long action film that only has one real fault: it is nearly three hours long.
Featuring some of the most jaw-dropping action scenes caught on camera, John Wick: Chapter 4 is another solid entry in the franchise that began with an indie solo flick and has become an entity known for intense, brutal, and darkly cartoonish gunfights.
Keanu Reeves slides back into the role like a well-worn glove and director Chad Stahelski is back yet again. The pairing is magic. Most action movies–even good ones–are lucky to leave audiences with a single, truly memorable action sequence. In John Wick: Chapter 4 I can count four top-grade sequences that most other movies would kill for:
- Though some would argue it’s overly long, a gunfight set in a Japanese hotel is pure John Wick gloriousness. Fast-paced, unrelenting, and imaginative, it delivers everything fans expect.
- A sequence in which Wick gets his hands on a machine gun with explosive bullets–captured from overhead as the camera pans across rooms–is downright breathtaking. The audience laughed, the audience cried, and the audience was impressed.
- The epic battle set on a staircase that puts those Exorcist stairs to shame feels like something you’d find in a Jackie Chan movie, only more intense and with less props. The setback that occurs halfway through had the audience reeling.
- And the final showdown is just spectacularly done. After everything that has happened over the last two and a half hours, Stahelski wisely pulls things back and opts for an absolutely killer one-two punch to round things out.
While some may point to a fifth or even sixth scene–a shootout that occurs at the Arc de Triomphe, and another in a nightclub where mindless dancers completely ignore what’s happening around them–I personally found that both veer very close to jumping the shark. The John Wick franchise, especially in the sequels, has approached the fine line between ridiculous action and ridiculously stupid (a line that, say, the Fast and Furious franchise films perilously crossed many entries ago) a few times. While Wick has always proven to be unrealistically invincible, the movies work best when the action stays tethered to some degree of believability. Here, especially as Wick unsuccessfully tries to dodge speeding cars wrapping around Paris’s famous landmark, the movie came close to losing me.
John Wick: Chapter 4 thankfully gravitates away from some of the over-the-top mythology that John Wick 3 dabbled with too much. Still, the movie would have been just as good if not better had it trimmed 20 or 30 minutes, perhaps cutting one of those aforementioned action sequences and pairing back on the self-serious “ancient assassin creed” that the franchise has embraced.
The cast could have been trimmed, too. Ian McShane, a mainstay throughout the movies, has worn out his welcome–while he delivers arguably the best one-liner in the movie (part of that one-two punch mentioned in Bullet Four above), his character is more obnoxious than helpful. And there’s no real reason why Lawrence Fishburne needed to return. Lance Reddick, who passed away a day before the writing of this review, is used sparingly.
On the positive side, Donnie Yen is a fantastic addition, as is Bill Skarsgaard as villain Marquis.
John Wick: Chapter 4 runs the risk of trying to do way too much with what is essentially a routine story, but the unrelenting high-grade action is undeniably awesome. And plentiful. And more than worth the price of admission on opening weekend.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.