John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) – Reel Review

Director: Chad Stahelski | Runtime: 2h 49mins | Action, Crime, Thriller

As John Wick continues to fight for his life against The Table, he discovers a way to finally get out. But, in order to achieve his freedom he must fight off numerous foes and new threats.

After gracing us with three gloriously violent films that have comfortably cemented Keanu Reeves’ deadpan action-hero into pop-culture, director Chad Stahelski is back with the fourth instalment of the John Wick franchise. Although It’s bigger and a lot longer than its predecessors, it’s almost impossible not to enjoy every second you’re watching – mostly thanks to the film using 75% of its runtime dedicated to wall-to-wall action. 

The franchise has always boasted a high-quality blend of stylised violence and frenetic energy – which is arguably at its best in the third film – but here Stahelski is upping both factors emphatically. All the fights are played out on a luxurious backdrop, whether it be the neon Japanese style of the ‘Osaka Continental’ fight or the techno-infused Berlin nightclub scene, everything teeters on the edge of being style over substance. But, the film always prioritises its choreography, never sacrificing the key ingredient that’s made the franchise so successful.

Even the blandest of action films can have moments of greatness so it’s important to pick out what has made Stahelski’s franchise stand out so much. Arguably, it’s the directors background in stunt work that gives the action scenes that extra juice, but it’s the films ability to tell it’s story through the action, as well as switch up the tone so well. A lot of the set pieces are packed with a dark sense of humour, especially during a scene at The Arc De Triomphe in which John continually launches his foes into oncoming traffic, showcasing the directors ability not just to make you laugh but also how to make the most of the action scenes offered to us. 

Despite being so entertaining the world in which John Wick is hastily trying to leave has often felt like a parody of itself. The lavish and rule-abiding nature of the assassin underworld often comes across as cartoonish but John Wick: Chapter 4 does it’s best to rectify this. Bill Skarsgaard has always been good at leaning heavily into the fantastical side of his characters and his performance as Marquis is no different, offering us a lot more as a villain than the rest of the franchise. As well as a number of old friends and new foes that do just enough to avoid feeling like caricatures.

Much like Tom Cruise found his calling as an actor doing death-defying stunts, Keanu Reeves has never felt more comfortable than playing the deadpan role of John Wick. His minimal dialogue and dedication to the more physical side of his performance has made Reeves such a likeable and respectable figure and despite being the senior to a number of his co-stars, he’s still able to capture the all-powerful entity that Wick is supposed to be. His rugged and blunt performance is by no means a masterclass in emotional acting, but the weight and subtlety he carries when performing as John Wick is one of the biggest reasons this franchise has succeeded. 

With John Wick: Chapter 4 sitting at 2 hours and 49 minutes it joins a long line of blockbuster films that are unnecessarily long. But, unlike the rest, the film’s dedication to wall-to-wall action and adrenaline-packed storytelling will help you get through it. Arguably the film’s biggest downfall is the world becoming more cartoonish as the films have gone on, but Stahelski understands the reason behind the franchise’s success is in its action. Its raw and inventive action set-pieces continue to exemplify how action should be done – making it a fine addition to one of the best action franchises of all time.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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