Wednesday 24 May 2023

REVIEW: John Wick: Chapter 4 - Starring Keanu Reeves

Review by Jon Donnis
John Wick is back, in what I believe is the end to the John Wick story. The sequel to John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019), Keanu Reeves as John Wick is out to get revenge on the High Table and those who left him for dead. Before I start, it is worth noting that this is the longest film in the series, at a massive 169 minutes (nearly 3 hours) it is about 38 minutes longer than John Wick 3, 47 minutes longer than John Wick 2, and 68 minutes longer than John Wick. So, to watch this you will need to have plenty of popcorn, and perhaps even a soft cushion for your behind.

In the bustling metropolis of New York City, (Nothing like real life, since NYC is an absolute dump, but anyway), John Wick finds himself hidden away with the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne - a former underground crime boss who was left for dead by the High Table and is now sponsoring John Wick), making meticulous preparations for his forthcoming quest for vengeance against the formidable High Table. His underground sanctuary serves as a temporary refuge as he carefully strategizes his next move.

Determined to dismantle the High Table's power, John embarks on a journey to Morocco, where he sets his sights on eliminating the Elder, the influential figure who holds the highest position within the organization. With unwavering resolve, John succeeds in accomplishing his mission, causing ripples of consequence to reverberate through the ranks of the High Table.

In response to John's audacious act, Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), a prominent member of the High Table, takes charge. Summoning Winston (Ian McShane), the esteemed manager of the New York Continental hotel, and his loyal concierge, Charon (Lance Reddick), the Marquis confronts them with a scathing reprimand. He berates Winston for his failure to assassinate John, holding him accountable for the repercussions that have ensued.

To deliver a fitting punishment for Winston's perceived incompetence, the Marquis swiftly strips him of his managerial responsibilities and declares him "excommunicado," effectively severing his ties to the High Table. In a ruthless display of authority, the Marquis proceeds to destroy the Continental, the renowned sanctuary for assassins, and executes Charon without mercy. Having unleashed his wrath, the Marquis then enlists the services of Caine (Donnie Yen), a retired and visually impaired assassin affiliated with the High Table. He coerces Caine into targeting his old acquaintance, John, using the threat of harm to Caine's own daughter as leverage.

Seeking safety and support, John seeks refuge at the Osaka Continental, a haven overseen by his trusted friend Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada). As John takes shelter within its walls, the Marquis dispatches his right-hand man, Chidi, along with a cohort of High Table assassins and the relentless Caine, to investigate the premises. Sensing the impending danger, Akira (Rina Sawayama), Koji's daughter and the hotel's concierge, orchestrates a swift evacuation, ensuring the safety of the occupants just moments before the High Table unleashes their destructive assault, rendering the once-sacred grounds in chaos. In a valiant effort to protect John, Koji and his loyal companions engage in a fierce battle against the onslaught of armoured assassins. Amidst the chaos, John fights with unwavering determination, cutting through wave after wave of adversaries until he finds himself locked in a climactic showdown with Caine. However, their confrontation is abruptly interrupted by the appearance of "Mr. Nobody," (Shamier Anderson) a bounty hunter who recognizes the inadequacy of the reward for capturing John and aids in his escape. While Koji, gravely wounded, continues to confront Caine, sacrificing himself for John's cause, Caine reluctantly ends Koji's life but shows mercy to Akira.

Returning to the heart of New York, John seeks solace and communion with Winston, who has been consumed by his own thirst for vengeance, as they stand at the solemn gravesite of their fallen comrade, Charon. In this melancholic encounter, Winston shares a vital piece of information with John: an ancient High Table tradition that could potentially offer a path to liberation. By invoking this tradition, John could challenge the Marquis to a duel, with victory granting him freedom from the shackles of the High Table. However, there's a catch, John can only request a duel on behalf of a crime family. Determined to exploit this opportunity, John sets off for the Berlin headquarters of the Ruska Roma crime syndicate, an organization he had previously distanced himself from.

Upon arriving, John must negotiate his readmission into the syndicate, led by his adoptive sister, Katia (Natalia Tena). She lays down the conditions for his return, stipulating that John must eliminate Killa Harkan (Scott Adkins), a High Table member responsible for their father's murder. Intriguingly, this objective aligns with John's own vendetta. Encountering Killa at his opulent nightclub, John finds himself engaged in a fierce confrontation. With the support of Caine and Mr. Nobody, John valiantly battles Killa's henchmen, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. In the climactic clash, John emerges triumphant, exacting his revenge and reclaiming his rightful place within the ranks of the High Table.

And even after all of that, you are barely a third the way through the film!

Despite the length of the film, it is almost totally non-stop action, hardly a moment to breath, Keanu Reeves is excellent as John Wick as he always is, and totally convincing too. There are some twists and turns along the way and at the end, which you would expect.

JW4 is everything from the first 3 films, but bigger, better and longer, yes there is a plot in there somewhere, but this is purely about action, watching the John Wick character dispatch of his enemies, in more and more creative ways, as well as within some incredible cinematography.

The Good
The nonstop action, the direction, the visual effects and filming style, everything is just a feast for the eyes.

The Bad
The totally unnecessary run time of nearly 3 hours. Everything just feels so stretched out, because the film is light on actual story, and heavy on the fights, at some points you just want them to get on with it. Even something as simple as Ian McShane as Winston walking through a room takes forever. This film could easily have cut over an hour out without affecting the story or even the action one bit. This is the version you release as a director's cut, not the theatrical cut. I love the John Wick franchise and even I struggled through this.

Ridiculous run time to the side, this is a great film, and it is worth watching it to the end, as the ending is incredible and sensational. I just don't like having to feel like I have just been through 12 rounds with Mike Tyson to get to it.

The long run time will put off newcomers to the franchise, but will satisfy the hardcore fans. But how about you release a proper theatrical cut, keep it to 100 minutes, and let us enjoy the film like we did the original.

I score John Wick a marathon 8.5/10

Out now in cinemas and on digital at and