John Wick: Chapter 4 just keeps ramping things up, with at least three all-time banger set pieces
Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski return for this fourth entry in the John Wick saga. More so than ever, Keanu Reeves’s physical presence in the action scenes is emphasised, says Dominic Corry.
Cinema’s most-prolonged final showdown, the John Wick franchise aggressively recommits to its well-established predilections with its fourth entry, a nearly three-hour epic of bullets, bruisers and beautifully choreographed action set-pieces.
The plot ostensibly offers a potential resolution to Wick’s seemingly endless conflict with The High Table, the ruling body of a complicated underground criminal society that Wick was drawn back into in the first movie, but like all the other sequels, it’s principally comprised of John Wick vs. Everybody.
There’s plenty of business around the (selectively enforced) rules of the world these people exist in, all of which serve to set up grander and grander battles. The first chunk of the film takes place at the Osaka Continental, but Paris is the main setting, and a variety of its landmarks are put to amusing use, although a certain staircase is the most memorable location.
Personifying Wick’s pursuers this time around is High Table higher-up The Marquis, played by Bill Skarsgård with a ceaselessly amusing French accent. Other notable new additions include Hiroyuki Sanada as Ian McShane’s Osaka equivalent, pop star Rina Sawayama making her film debut playing Sanada’s daughter, Shamier Anderson as an ambitious young hitman, Donnie Yen going full Zatoichi as a blind swordsman/assassin and Scott Adkins in a fatsuit as a giggling card shark who squares off with Wick.
There’s a wonderful tradition of “guest action stars” in this series, and Yen’s presence here may just be the apex of that notion. His nimble, pointy style provides a satisfying contrast to the heavy, stumbling nature of Wick’s combat. Adkins isn’t as well-served, but it’s still nice that he’s in there.
More so than ever, Keanu Reeves’s physical presence in the action scenes is emphasised—you see his face a lot, which has always paradoxically lent these highly ridiculous films a grounded quality.
There are at least three all-time banger set pieces here. One has Keanu using a car to beat some dudes up (‘car fu’?), which leads into a prolonged Arc de Triomphe triumph. There is an amazing oner that follows Keanu through multiple rooms of a building from above as he despatches dozens of enemies. Then there is the aforementioned staircase bit, which compresses everything great about the John Wick franchise into two-hundred-and-something concrete stairs.
‘Operatic’ is the base level of these films, and this one just keeps ramping things up. There may be a touch more John Woo this time than usual, especially in the finalé, which I particularly liked.
So clearly made by action fans for action fans, there is little here designed to “onboard” new recruits. By this point, the series is speaking directly to its audience, and newcomers will be mostly befuddled. But that audience is catered to extremely well this time around.
Also, there’s a bit where John Wick uses nunchucks. Nunchucks are cool.