Good movies worth seeing in the theater have become few and far between so when one comes around, it’s worth shelling out the cash and getting the full theater experience.
I can tell you that “John Wick 4” is one of those movies.
For those who haven’t been watching the John Wick franchise from the beginning, the story revolves around the legendary assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) who had gotten out of the life but was thrust back into it after a mobster’s son who didn’t know who he was stole his car and murdered his puppy, the last gift his wife had ever given him before her death from an illness.
This sent Wick on a mission of revenge that would eventually lead to the destruction of a New York Russian mafia boss and his organization, but would ultimately thrust Wick back into the world of assassins. Wick spends the next two movies fighting his way out of the surprisingly deep and rule-oriented world of assassins, becoming a prime target of the “high table,” the governing body of the underground assassin culture.
In the fourth chapter, we catch back up to Wick after having seemingly been betrayed by a friend in a move that sent him off the roof of a building. However, Wick clearly survived the fall and he is now preparing for what is clearly a final showdown with the High Table. Wick finds his allies dwindling as they’re either too afraid to associate with him or are murdered by High Table assassins. With few refuges to run to, we meet the villain of the story, Marquis de Gramont, brilliantly played by Bill Skarsgård.
The Marquis has been given all the resources of the High Table to hunt down and kill Wick, including weapons and highly skilled and dedicated killers. He also employs regular assassins through the promise of a huge multi-million dollar reward, effectively making it a Wick vs. the World situation.
What results is a high-octane, action-packed film that balances its gunplay and fighting with just enough drama to give the film the depth it needs. Characters are well-acted to the point where even with limited screen time, they loom larger than life but manage to never overstay their welcome.
While everyone plays their part beautifully, there are two standout characters, in my opinion. The first is the Marquis. Skarsgård makes a villain that you love to hate but, oddly, want to see more of. It’s very rare to see a villain walk the fine line between being a man too rich and prideful for his own good and being an evil that is as cold as he is competent.
The other is “Caine,” played by Donnie Yen. Caine is a blind assassin who, like Wick, wanted out after the birth of his daughter but couldn’t quite find a way. He is part of a group of friends of which Wick was a part, but after the Marquis tells Caine to kill Wick under the threat of taking his daughter’s life, Caine is forced to hunt Wick against his will. Yen manages to make a blind assassin feel very dangerous while also still managing to turn Caine’s obvious reluctance into moments of levity.
While the movie is extremely good and well-acted, I wouldn’t say it’s perfect.
The action scenes, while incredible, can still manage to feel a little too over the top. It takes the concept of bulletproof armor and makes it seem as if it also absorbs all the shock as well, leaving someone who was just shot in their armored head a few times still capable of fighting. Opponents do become dazed, but it’s just enough to allow Wick to reload or get to a point where they can be finished off right as they regain the ability to fight. It feels a little too convenient sometimes.
Then there’s the absolutely god-like endurance of Wick, who apparently doesn’t need to eat, sleep, or recover from wounds of any kind. While he does exhibit pain and exhaustion, when it’s go-time he’s capable of moving with speed and accuracy that just wouldn’t be possible after the beating he just took or the hours of fighting he’d just undergone.
It’s a high-octane action movie, and it’s very typical of the Wick franchise, but sometimes it becomes so over-the-top that it threatens to take you out of it. In fact, it kind of becomes silly near the end, but the movie seems to be self-aware about this and ramps up the comedy a bit to remind you that it’s just a movie.
To be clear, while I have these complaints, these are minor complaints at best. By this point, you expect a Wick movie to be a bit on the fantastical side, and introducing too much realism would likely slow the movie down and make it a run-of-the-mill shooter. That’s not what you show up to a Wick movie for.
You show up for creative gunplay and action scenes, and the film delivers it in truckloads. The film sets these fight scenes in all sorts of locales, from high-end clubs, historic buildings, gorgeously decorated opulent rooms, condemned buildings, and even the Arc De Triomphe. The gunplay is mixed with an incredible display of martial arts and stunt work with every actor delivering 110 percent.
While there are moments where Reeves (58) shows his age, the man is well-practiced as an action hero and it shows. His real-life skill as a firearms expert is on full display, so much so that it almost becomes a character in and of itself. Watching Reeves use guns and even mix gunplay into close-quarters martial arts is almost hypnotic.
You’ll not find an ounce of messaging in this film. The movie sticks to the plight of Wick and the High Table’s attempts to kill him. Most of the talking the movie does is through its action scenes and any conversations strictly adhere to Wick’s predicament. There are moments of real depth that add much-needed weight to the characters, making the human despite their inhuman endurance and combat prowess, but none of these moments contain alienating or shoehorned-in opinions.
“John Wick: Chapter 4” is just a really good movie and continues building on a franchise that is redefining the action genre. I can’t recommend you see it in the theater enough as movies that manage to do something this good should absolutely be rewarded with the good old “wallet vote.”
My recommendation is to make time to see it this week. I’m already planning to see it a second time.
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