JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4
By: Adam Freed
Some of the greatest gifts bestowed upon an audience are those they never requested. Nine years ago nobody asked for the John Wick franchise to slowly infiltrate the global action consciousness. Despite mild early box office returns for the original film, a strong word of mouth and mammoth home viewership planted this now historic franchise and its aging star Keanu Reeves on steady ground. Nobody asked for the four course meal of a genre defining ballet of violence, but thank god that is what we’ve received.
The latest iteration of John Wick is forced uphill by the very nature of being a fourth installment. Extended franchises can often feel their own redundancy, but in this case Chapter 4 quickly winks at audiences with a captivating set piece that calls back to both John Wick: Parabellum as well as Lawrence of Arabia. Audiences are instantly reminded of the fun and flamboyant promise that the team of director Chad Stahleski and writer Derek Kohlstad have delivered upon now four times over.
Although John Wick: Chapter 4 lacks nothing in the way of supporting star power, Ian McShane, Lawrence Fishburne, and a delightfully menacing Bill Skarsgard, the true right hand to Reeve’s Wick is the city of Paris. The city of lights dazzles at dawn and dusk but burns brightest as a backdrop to some of the film’s most awe inspiring set pieces. In particular, a marathon of fists, blades and bloodshed filmed at breakneck pace in the infamous roundabout encircling the Arc-de-Triomphe perfectly encapsulates the tone and mise-en-scene of this blockbuster.
Reeves has signaled that Chapter 4 is the saga’s final installment, which makes the intentional callbacks to its three predecessors feel more an expression of gratitude to fans than cheap pandering. John Wick: Chapter 4 is innovative in its presentation of mass violence and delightful in its stylized incorporation of art as well as the perfectly timed needle drop. This franchise, the reinvigoration of its star, and the creative new heights it has reached in a genre that had grown stale, will without question be the lasting memories of John Wick. It feels like an unrequested gift that will be cherished forever.