Review Date: 3/29/23
Director: Chad Stahelski
Music: Tyler Bates
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Bill Skarsgård, Clancy Brown, Scott Adkins, Rina Sawayama, Marko Zaror
"WHY WON'T YOU JUST DIE?!?"
The nigh-indestructible John Wick (Keanu Reeves) comes out of hiding and seeks the Elder of the High Table to beg for his freedom. The meeting doesn't go well, and the High Table grants executive power to the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) to get rid of Mr. Wick once and for all. This results in the deconsecration and destruction of the New York Continental, and the dismissal of its manager, Winston (Ian McShane). The Marquis also enlists a blind assassin named Caine (Donnie Yen) to take down John, who happens to be an old friend of his. Naturally, he's reluctant to do so, but his daughter's life depends on it. After killing an endless parade of nameless bad guys and bounty hunters, John and Caine are forced to face off against each other in single combat as part of Vincent's sadistic agenda.
It's a beautifully filmed action spectacle, but much like the previous entries, it falls short of greatness due to artistic decisions and annoyances that rubbed me the wrong way. And especially in this film, the non-stop violence is an exhausting exercise in excess. By the second half, I was completely numb and just wanted the movie to end. Furthermore, the film's homage to "The Warriors" (1979) during the protracted climax is distracting, unnecessary, and increasingly irritating. Winston's punchline at the end of the film was crude and unnecessary, and assumed that the audience was too dumb to figure out what was going on, even though it was immediately obvious. It was disruptive, out of character, and left a bad taste. The Tracker character and his dog were also annoying and unnecessary, and really served no purpose other than to add a poignant dog moment for John. On top of that, the CGI dog scenes are awful and derail the action.
However, apart from Nobody, the other characters are great. Donnie Yen is wonderful, despite the fact that I'm sick to death of the blind assassin trope. Hiroyuki Sanada is fantastic as the manager of the Osaka Continental, and his scenes with Yen are among the best in the film. Rina Sawayama also delivers an excellent performance as the sole female fighter in the cast, and she's delightful to watch. Bill Skarsgård makes a superb megalomaniacal villain and his delivery is absolutely perfect. The biggest surprise is Scott Adkins, who is completely unrecognizable as a Kingpin-sized villain in a fat suit. His character is extremely creepy and menacing, and despite his bulk, he pulls off some impressive fighting moves. I feel like his character might have been a nod to Samo Hung, but that's probably just me projecting. Keanu Reeves is his usual stiff and deadpan self, who speaks only 380 words in the entire film. But John Wick is a man of action, and Reeves imbues him with a convincing and impressively physical performance. Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, and Clancy Brown do a wonderful job of upholding the lore of the John Wick universe, even if their roles are simple and undemanding.
The film really goes all out and very much feels like playing a video game, where endless waves of generic bad guys come out of the woodwork to do you harm. There's even a continuous overhead shot that mimics the video game presentation of "The Hong Kong Massacre" and recalls John Woo's hospital shootout in "Hard-Boiled" (1992). The gunplay is ridiculously overdone, and the Kevlar suit schtick becomes increasingly tiresome and defies all laws of physics. While the action scenes are superbly crafted, they tend to overstay their welcome, which deflates their impact and invites criticism as the cracks in logic become more evident. The film works best when the characters fight one-on-one, but the action tends to favor massive shootouts with dozens of enemies rushing John at the same time. And in this film more than the others, the complete absence of any police or law enforcement is glaringly obvious and just a little unsettling. "John Wick: Chapter 4" ends with a bang and finally offers some peace and closure for Mr. Wick, but given its strong box office performance, the bloodsuckers at Lionsgate are already trying to come up with ways to make a fifth film. While I would love to spend more time in John's hyper-violent neon-noir world, it feels like his story is closed. And that leaves me looking forward to seeing Ana de Armas in the spin-off movie "Ballerina," which is supposed to come out in 2024.