‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ Continues The Streak Of Excellent Action Sequels – Review
by Diego Andaluz
It has been nearly 10 years since Chad Stahelski and David Leitch’s John Wick opened in theatres and unexpectedly became a massive success. The latest starring Keanu Reeves’ directed by former stuntman and returning helmsman Stahelski promises us a gargantuan, action-packed experience unlike any other John Wick sequel has before.
Starting with a bang, the film opens with Reeves’ excommunicated John Wick fleeing his overlords of the High Table. Personified in this installment by Bill Skarsgard’s menacing turn as the Marquis de Gramont, the High Table soon shows Wick that they will stop at nothing to take him down—even if it means destroying the New York Continental and critical members of that group. Now hiding in Japan under the illegal protection of the Osaka Continental’s Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada), Wick is faced with standing on his own with the league of assassins the High Table sends to take him down, such as Donnie Yen’s Caine and Shamier Anderson’s Tracker.
This action-packed, exposition-heavy setup guides the majority of the first third of the film. This third trades between intriguing action sequences and gargantuan exposition dumps that teeter on the verge of playing at an exhausting pitch. The film’s lengthy runtime never truly becomes an issue, but in these moments, it does strain itself. Often feeling like a chore to get through, they’re bogged down by their repetitive nature within the film and in the context of the entire franchise. While these character-driven interactions continue to build the mythology of the world Wick inhabits compellingly, they pale compared to the intricately crafted, action-heavy sequences that rightfully showcase where Stahelski’s talents truly lie.
Once the High Table’s assassins find Wick, Shimazu, and his daughter Akira (singer Rina Sawayama in her film debut with a surprisingly commanding presence), the first primary action sequence of the film kicks off. The initial glimpses of John Wick: Chapter 4’s kinetic brilliance can be seen in these moments. Shot with a bombastic extravagance yet still tightly calculated and quiet in pivotal moments, one would expect a sequence like this to serve as the crowning climax of a film.
Yet, Stahelski instead employs this sequence as a vessel through which more personal character motivations are set up beyond Wick’s drive, using action to inform the character uncompromisingly that most modern action films tend to shy away from. This sets the stage for a movie where every major twist, turn, and death holds emotional weight in a tale of two former friends facing off with justifiable motivations. In the core conflict, there are no villains—just men, desperate for themselves and their loved ones to survive.
Throughout the latter half of the film, Stahelski builds upon this sequence—and his work on the previous installments of the franchise—to deliver one of the greatest action-driven spectacles of the decade. Assembling a supremely talented group of stunt performers, choreographers, and below-the-line crew, Stahelski orchestrates the best work of his career. Cinematographer Dan Laustsen crafts starkly lit, neon-infused worlds where every punch, kick, stab, and momentary pause is punctuated by dizzying displays of light, accentuating the hyper-stylized nature of the film’s best moments.
In the film’s final act, we’re thrust into four back-to-back action sequences that stand tall. When strung together, however, they rise as one of the most thrilling finales in recent memory. Bound by orders to reach a certain point to dual out his fate by sunrise, an entire world of assassins is unleashed on Wick as he must travel to the location, risking immediate execution if he fails to make it on time. Commencing with a pulse-pounding car chase elevated by Evan Schiff’s editing and harsh sound design, we are then taken into an indoor set sequence that shines brightly with an exquisitely blocked overhead tracking shot that establishes Stahelski as the most promising action filmmaker of our time—but that’s not all.
Wick soon faced one of his most challenging obstacles yet: a 200+ step flight of stairs packed with enemies, which devolves into a hilarious yet wildly thrilling sequence. When one may think there’s no way that triptych of action sequences can be topped, Stahelski cleverly subverts all expectations to end with a simple, taut, yet emotionally-charged, tension-filled duel that prioritizes character over spectacle at its highest moment.
Extracting deeply-felt emotions from all involved, Stahelski ends the film on a fitting pause to the franchise, leaving the door open for future installments while ending the saga at a powerful high. Merging kinetic action sequences with dynamic character work and touching emotional stakes, John Wick: Chapter 4 improves on its predecessors to establish itself as one of the greatest action films of the century.