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John Wick: Chapter 4

By Bradley Lane

The first John Wick film, released in 2014, was not seen by the Hollywood elite as a good idea. It was a completely independent production that struggled to find a distributor up until just two months until its eventual release. An aging star, a seemingly tired revenge formula, and a first-time director all signaled that it was bound to be a flop. However, despite the low expectations, John Wick would go on to simultaneously revolutionize and resurrect the American action film. Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch made against the grain choices, opting for impossibly demanding long action sequences, only made possible with precise and intricate action choreography honed from their years as stunt coordinators and performers. With each subsequent entry into the series the films have become more successful and accordingly each film’s budgets increase making possible even more stunning, ambitious action set pieces. John Wick: Chapter 4 represents the team behind John Wick, somehow, impossibly making a bigger and better film than the massive over-the-top thrills of John Wick 3: Parabellum.

Still suffering the consequences for seeking revenge and entering back into his life as an elite hitman, John Wick 4 opens on its titular character recovering from his wounds suffered from the last film. While in hiding, Wick is planning his revenge on the High Table, the shadowing power structure of this underground crime world, which turned on him after his years of service following a breach in their very strict code of rules. John Wick 4 sees the titular character going scorched earth, brutalizing anyone in his path to free himself from the shackles of a life of violence and servitude to the High Table.

As with each of the John Wick films, the obvious draw is how the creators can top themselves in regard to the action and without question, this film is the new bar for the franchise. Unfailing in their pursuit of improvement, the action is always inventive, gorgeously lit, and stunningly realized. A massive car chase set against the Arc de Triomphe, a mind-blowing overhead one take, and a multi-phased samurai-esque battle in a hotel are only a few highlights of a film nearly three hours long, the majority of which is stuffed with inventive and fun fight choreography.

What was surprising is how well the film balances its thrills with an emotional throughline that has been missing since the first film. Along with a refreshing and well realized cast of new characters, Wick himself is struggling with his place in this world. Quietly struggling with his existence that seems to be in constant conflict with the world around him, Wick’s character arc provides a subtle but necessary meta-commentary on a series reaching essentially the fourth film focused on the same story as the original. Reeves owes his career revitalization to the John Wick franchise, and it’s clear he cares about the craft of the action just as much as the emotional core of his character.

Even despite these refreshing additions, the film can’t help but drag just a bit too much in between the action. Even so, John Wick: Chapter 4 is still a high point for American action cinema. The expertise on display from the cast and crew deserves to be seen in a crowded theater and celebrated as a serious work of art, not just genre entertainment. John Wick: Chapter 4 is currently only available in theaters. – 4/5 stars

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