JOHN WICK CHAPTER 4 movie poster | ©2023 Lionsgate

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 movie poster | ©2023 Lionsgate

Rating: R
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Lance Reddick, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, Ian McShane, Clancy Brown
Writers: Shay Hatten and Michael Finch, based on characters created by Derek Kolstad
Director: Chad Stahelski
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: March 24, 2023

As the saying goes, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 came to chew bubblegum and kick butt, and seldom has there been a movie so out of bubblegum. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 logs in at two hours and forty-nine minutes (including credits). There is butt-kicking, along with head-butting, shooting, swordfights, knife fights, fistfights, car fights, nunchucks, and assorted mayhem that is so extensive that we can’t help but be awed by the sheer scope of it.

To provide as spoiler-free a summary as possible: In JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4, John (Keanu Reeves) has mostly recovered from the events of JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM, in which he got shot and fell off a roof. John now has the full wrath of the High Table, the powerful international assassins’ group, directed at him. After a brief stop in the Middle East, John travels to Osaka, Berlin, and Paris, seeking a solution to his predicament. Various alliances morph as things rapidly escalate.

Chad Stahelski, who directed all three of the previous JOHN WICK films, is back in that capacity here. He is a former stunt coordinator and stuntman, and his expertise in this is evident. There is a special delight flowing through action films when they are directed by people who have a stunt background, because they know what can be done that they haven’t tried yet, and what’s the best way to put an added spin on that.

Screenwriters Shay Hatten (also a writer on PARABELLUM) and Michael Finch, working from the original characters created by Derek Kolstad, actually provide a sense of forward momentum, and find moments of wit and emotion amidst the chaos.

It helps hugely that Reeves has perfect timing with John’s deadpan delivery and physical commitment. He’s not an uninflected Man in Black, but instead elegiac and wry. We have come to truly appreciate Reeves’s John Wick as someone neither “burdened with glorious purpose” or full of wisecracks, but simply as someone who always finds a way to accomplish his goals without fanfare – and, of course, as a dog lover. There’s room for us to admire him, because there’s no self-aggrandizement crowding us out. (This isn’t a slam at chattier action heroes, but it’s good to have a quiet one on occasion.)

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 4 movie poster | ©2023 Lionsgate

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 movie poster | ©2023 Lionsgate

Among JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4’s many other pleasures, we get a multifaceted fight between Asian actor/action greats Hiroyuki Sanada and Donnie Yen, both in top form. Bill Skarsgård makes his villain the epitome of soft-spoken entitled snobbishness. There is a tragically timely but very touching tribute to the late Lance Reddick, who appears again as hotel concierge Charon. Ian McShane is also back as philosophical hotel manager Winston, and Laurence Fishburne returns as the powerful Bowery King.

New and welcome performers include the charismatic Shamier Anderson as Mr. Nobody the tracker, Rina Sawayama as an extremely dedicated concierge at the Osaka hotel, and Scott Adkins as the villain’s main aide.

The dog-training team led by Kimberly Andrews, working with however many Belgian Malinois are playing Mr. Nobody’s “puppy,” deserve a special shout-out. So does whoever did the stunt on the stairs. When a press screening audience gasps, something memorable has been achieved.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 is a movie that has considerable hype around it – and meets pretty much every expectation it creates.

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