And now I know how deadly a real-life game of Frogger can be. Thanks, Mr. Wick!
Set shortly after the climactic events of the last entry in this over-the-top action series, John Wick: Chapter 4 brings back our titular protagonist, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), as he takes his one-man war to the people that oversee his assassin order: the High Table. Facing off against fellow hitman, the blind martial arts master, Caine (Donnie Yen), a new mysterious bounty hunter with a vicious dog sidekick, Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson), the film’s Big Bad in the High Table’s Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), and more than a few bad guys that survive for approximately ten seconds before being brutally murdered, John takes one last dive into the world of blood and bullets to once and for all settle the score, something easier said than done.
So this movie is fucking wild, full stop. Chock-full of non-stop action that pushes the boundaries of stuntwork to its limits to some continued world-building that has kept this cinematic universe interesting to subverting what’s possible in the action genre as a whole, John Wick: Chapter 4 is an adrenaline-fueled trip of a film that excels in more ways than one while entertaining at nearly every turn despite its almost three-hour runtime. Bringing in some new characters like Donnie Yen’s scene-stealing Caine, Hiroyuki Sanada’s katana-wielding Shimazu Kojior, and even returning characters like Laurence Fishburne’s Bowery King and Ian McShane’s Winston, this movie, when firing on all cylinders, is truly an experience worth going to the theater for.
But for as fun as it was seeing a scene where John Wick bucks people down using incendiary round after incendiary round (inspired by a video game, no less) or getting giddy over watching the aforementioned real-life Frogger game result in people getting hit by a car every five seconds, not everything is as it should be in a film that could have done a lot worse for itself. Bogged down by a few iffy story elements and a general structure that’s extremely similar to what came before in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum — my least favorite in the franchise, despite still being pretty damn good — Chapter 4 does away with a lot of my issues from the last installment, but can’t overcome them all. From a first act that’s honestly the worst part of the movie to some storytelling decisions and a less grounded tone carrying over from Chapter 3 to the Mr. Nobody character I honestly didn’t care for, this movie really only falters when it tries to go above and beyond the sum of its balls-to-the-wall parts, as it doesn’t always stick the landing in ways that are as effective as they should be, with the emotional through-line of this series often being overshadowed by its more violent tendencies. Luckily, once these minor nuisances work themselves out, this latest chapter not only excels in its highly choreographed fight scenes but genuinely thrills the longer it goes on, easily rendering most of my nitpicks moot.
John Wick as a franchise has been such a breath of fresh air for action aficionados for the past decade, so it’s hard not to be impressed with what the filmmakers manage to pull off here, especially a final hour that’s just impressive to see play out. And even if John Wick: Chapter 4 ends up being the last entry in this series (I’m okay with how things ended if it is), it’ll go down as one of the top sequels in the franchise, as well as its most wild one yet.