I’ve been a lifelong fan of Keanu Reeves, through his minor roles to his epic monologue in Johnny Mnemonic and most importantly – his blockbuster role in John Wick. The delay was tough but John Wick: Chapter 4 is finally here – the real question is was it worth the wait? How can such a massive story possibly be wrapped up in a single film?
With a runtime of nearly three hours, to say John Wick 4 is a massive film is an understatement. John Wick 4 is not only one of the biggest action films ever made, it’s one of the longest. Some were disappointed with the third film, so the hype and expectations have never been higher. How does John Wick 4 stand-up? Find out in our spoiler-free John Wick 4 review!
John Wick: Chapter 4
Production Company: Summit Entertainment, 87North Productions, Thunder Road Pictures
Director: Chad Stahelski
Release Date: March 24th, 2023
John Wick: Chapter 4 picks up right after the somewhat disappointing cliffhanger of the third film. John was seemingly betrayed, brutalized, and left for dead alongside The Bowery King. With both seeking yet more revenge, where could the supposed finale go? The opening sequence moves fast in immediately fixing errors from the third film.
You could say the beginnings of John Wick 4 are essentially a reboot of where the story should have gone. Many fans (myself included) just want to see John finally get his revenge. The only thing his endless killing could lead to is a direct assault on The High Table itself. Without spoiling anything, John is once again killing to survive yet the stakes have never been higher.
A common theme in all the John Wick movies is that anyone he gets involved with, friend or foe, usually ends up dead. John Wick 4 actually manages to include both almost equally in its story. John’s actions have more consequences now and his very few friends will pay the price. Some of their deaths are brief, others prolonged and painful – both physically and emotionally.
After somehow managing to kill an even greater figurehead from the international crime syndicate, John is in even more trouble. His enemies get desperate to stop him and employ people who knew him personally, including where he’d go to hide and resupply. The story goes to Japan where John seeks out an old friend, as the bond of friendship is really cemented in John Wick 4.
The bond of friendship between men, brothers in arms, is so strong in John Wick 4 it’s sometimes overwhelming. This was a movie made by men for men who want to see fraternal honor. One of John’s old friends trusts and honors him so much he’s willing to throw everything away to honor that bond. “Friendship means little when it’s convenient,” indeed.
Friendship permeates throughout the film as John has to call on as many favors as possible to somehow make it out alive. The level of carnage and destruction John faces in the fourth film easily tops anything seen in previous films. John is pushed to the absolute brink and can only really survive with some kind of support – sometimes even from former or current foes.
There was an interesting bit of marketing where the film heavily promoted British-Japanese singer Rina Sawayama – who plays a main character – with the film. The focus on Rina’s character as another assassin fighting alongside John Wick had some thinking the film inserted a girlboss type role but honestly? Her limited screentime was great and she has some fantastic moves when fighting.
I want to commend Rina and the other supporting cast, all of which play their parts spectacularly. There is the elephant in the room, tiny it may be considering how little spoken dialogue is actually in the film. Keanu famously doesn’t like talking much in his roles, so much so that he cut 50% of the dialogue from John Wick 4and it shows.
John Wick 4‘s story moves so abruptly at times with literal single-word lines the moments where thought-provoking, full sentences are spoken become staggering. Overall the film’s gargantuan runtime feels a tad bit too long, and I say this as an action film connoisseur that can watch hours of mindless mayhem.
John Wick 4 was unfortunately delayed to avoid competing with Tom Cruise’s also massive Top Gun sequel, which in the long run was a good idea. However, it’s a shame the production famously agonized over how long they could make the film and not how well the film paces itself. Don’t get me wrong, I want more John Wick, but I want the highs and lows to be more balanced – action and buildup.
When the action scenes in John Wick 4 do hit, oh boy do they hit. The film zips around the world in multiple iconic regions or cities like the aforementioned Japan stint (in Osaka), only to culminate for the grand finale in Paris. The amount of bone-crunching torture Keanu goes through as John is quite the spectacle.
The action in the big finale seems to not be satisfied with one firefight or gauntlet, no, it keeps on going. What begins innocently as a trip to meet and finally achieve reconciliation, redemption, quickly turns into a bloodbath. Seemingly every assassin in continental Europe is after John’s head, and the setpieces keep piling on top of one another.
There are multiple bits where John takes a direct hit from a car – several of them having him flip and roll on top of said moving vehicles. Action gets even more absurd and awesome when John commanders a muscle car and uses it both as movement and weapon as he mops up baddies around the iconic Arc de Triomphe.
Easily my favorite gauntlet, however, is the abandoned building where John moves from room to room with a shotgun that fires explosive, fiery shells, setting any foes ablaze and filling them with shrapnel. As this transpires the camera pans around and above, probably via drone, giving the viewer almost a Hotline Miami blood bath style.
Visuals, choreography, setpieces, explosions, and gunfights are all excellent. The soundtrack – like previous movies an eclectic hybrid of classical melodies and pounding synth, highlights all of the above perfectly. The audio track is stunning, from the very beginning you’d shaken to your core with a deep, resounding BOOM for every fist John punches.
While the previous films had somewhat of a morally gray backdrop and pushed a story of revenge, they always had some Christian-esque moral undertones. John Wick 4 really highlights this and drives this Christian symbolism and morality harder, with key scenes in beautiful churches and even a High Table representative speaking to God in Latin.
While the first theme in John Wick 4 is friendship, the second theme is redemption. John is a morally good man who has committed sins, and for that he must sluggish for his transgressions. The movie makes this clear on multiple levels and the first is that John has to somehow win against the most powerful organization in the world – The High Table.
The deal that is struck to give John the fulfillment and forgiveness he seeks is paid for in blood. Not only does John have to slay his way to even make this deal happen, he has to fight to near death. Even if he succeeds, will John Wick be satisfied? Will the infamous trained killer be able to be at peace? It’s hard to say.
Another part of this theme of redemption is with the Almighty, as anyone that sins will naturally at some point fear eternal judgment, and possibly damnation. Again without spoiling things, this is explored in a great way and ultimately should feel satisfying to both believers and nonbelievers. All of these themes are generally portrayed positively, as they should.
The last thing to consider with John Wick 4 is that this is concretely set as the final series. The ending, what it turned out to be, definitely reaffirms this, and yet Lionsgate is foaming at the mouth to continue the story after its box office success. Both director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves are pretty firm in this being the end, or at least a time for them to rest.
Overall, John Wick 4 is an excellent action film and the sequel fans deserved after the very excellent first two films. If you were disappointed by John Wick III and thought it was a bit masturbatory and didn’t continue the story or resolve anything, you’ll be very happy with John Wick 4. I’d even go as far as saying you could skip the third film (you shouldn’t, I still think it’s great).
John Wick: Chapter 4 was reviewed by Niche Gamer in theaters. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.