Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Written by: Shay Hatten, Michael Finch
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Lance Reddick, Rina Sawayama, Ian McShane
Released: March 23, 2023
Grade: B+

John Wick: Chapter 4

There’s a scene early in this film where our hero is told “not even you can kill everyone.”  It may be factually accurate… but it won’t stop the unkillable John Wick from trying.  In the same vein as the earlier movies, which kicked off as a surprise success story back in 2014, this is the kind of action flick where the dead body count feels higher than the number of words spoken.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  This is a franchise that knows exactly what it wants to be.  It’s not a James Bond spy flick with an intricate story about villainous conspiracies, and it’s not a Marvel superhero movie bringing together popular comic book characters from the past century.  There’s nothing flash about the storylines in the John Wick movies (they make no sense) but they provide great entertainment because of the well-choregraphed action sequences.

Former stuntman Chad Shalelski returns as director (he’s made all the John Wick movies) and once again, he’s crafted distinctive fight sequences which will jolt, shock and energise audiences.  The actors and stunt crew deserve praise but worthy of similar credit are the production design, set decoration, cinematography, and lighting teams.  They make the most of the terrific locations which include a boutique hotel, a pumping nightclub, a long set of stairs, and the famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

There’s creativity shown with the fights themselves.  One highlight occurs in a hotel kitchen where a blind assassin, played by Donnie Yen, slays a group of henchmen using martial arts and a few musical doorbells.  It’s so ridiculous… that it works!  Another great battle occurs in a building where Oscar-nominated cinematographer Dan Laustsen (The Shape of Water) and editor Nathan Orloff (Ghostbusters: Afterlife) go with a single, unedited overhead shot which will have you shaking your head with disbelief.

An action film needs a “bad guy” and the responsibility in John Wick: Chapter 4 falls on the shoulders of Bill Skarsgård (It) who is very good.  From his haircut, to his fancy suits, to his quirky accent, Skarsgård has a character who is cool and unlikeable in equal doses.  In terms of the other cast members, 58-year-old Keanu Reeves continues to defy Father Time with his action heroics, and veteran Ian McShane remains a huge asset with his distinctive voice.  It’s worth noting this is one of the last movies of Lance Reddick who sadly passed away last week at the age of 60.

There is only so long an action movie can hold by attention and despite the many positives, 169 minutes is an unnecessarily long run time.  This could easily have clocked in at two hours and been just as good.  Still, the finale is worth the wait and in my eyes, there’s yet to be a bad film in this solid franchise.