What to Watch Verdict
John Wick: Chapter 4 is a blast. The best action movie of the year, and perhaps the best in the genre since Mad Max: Fury Road.
Probably the best actions sequences we'll see all year
Fantastic new supporting characters
A stripped down but still rich universe
If there's one thing people in the John Wick universe should know by this point, it's you don't mess with the Baba Yaga. If there's one thing we've learned in the actual universe, it's that a John Wick movie is going to be a good time. So, no surprise, John Wick: Chapter 4 is a blast. But the fourth movie in the franchise is more than that — it is the best action movie of the year (early yes, but a distinction I suspect it'll keep) and perhaps the best pure action movie since Mad Max: Fury Road.
Now, just because John Wick movies are always entertaining, doesn't mean they can't be without faults. John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum was convoluted with its plot and many of the machinations of the universe. Chapter 4 corrects that, not just with a simpler title but by presenting a simpler story that is still rich with details of the global world of assassins that Keanu Reeves' John Wick occupies. Add a number of new fantastic supporting characters and enough character moments for John Wick and you have a practically perfect movie for action diehards everywhere.
When we last left John Wick, he had gone to great lengths to be absolved from his obligations to the High Table, but all for naught. He was shot by Winston (Ian McShane) and left for dead, but picked up the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and eager for revenge. Chapter 4 starts off with that quest, but when the High Table decides to appoint the Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) unlimited power to finally put a stop to John Wick, he has a new target as well as a potential, legitimate chance for a way out. That is if he can survive long enough.
The first thing we get in Chapter 4 is John Wick delivering thundering punches (seriously, the audio will probably shake your seats when you see this in theaters) against a board to get ready for his upcoming fights. An opening salvo for what is about to be nearly three hours of all out war.
The action sequences in Chapter 4 are incredible. Director Chad Stahelski's fight sequences in these movies have been among the best Hollywood has done in a longtime, incredibly choreographed and inventive. It's a high bar, but the fight sequences in Chapter 4 may be the best in the entire franchise. Personal favorite would be the extended sequence in the Osaka Continental, but movie goers are likely going to be talking about the Paris stair sequence and the dragon breath shotgun for quite some time.
But John Wick: Chapter 4 is a movie that proves you can have your cake and eat it too, like making an homage to Lawrence of Arabia and also have an attack dog whose signature movie is going after people in the crotch. We get long fight sequences but also moments for exposition and world-building that don't kill the momentum, which is how a movie that clocks in at two hours and 49 minutes (the longest movie in the franchise and more than hour longer than the original) doesn't feel bogged down.
Part of that is the plot is slimmed down and easier to understand. Many of the different roles of the table and who exactly is in charge have been axed, instead relying on Marquis as the main antagonist for John Wick, while Clancy Brown's character is a reminder that there is a greater power out there still. And while you can enjoy Chapter 4 without remembering every detail of the previous movies, all the key details are still there that impact John's journey, which is a testament to the script written by Shay Hatten and Michael Finch, but also to the world built by previous writer Derek Kolstad.
John Wick has become another iconic character for Reeves and he once again gives everything he has for the movie. But he's not alone, as a number of new supporting characters stand out. Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, Skarsgård and Donnie Yen come onto the scene and immediately grab your attention and delight. As the world of John Wick looks to expand into TV, we can only hope that some of these characters get a chance to come back.
After four movies, it would be fair if the franchise started to feel as tired as John Wick after defeating 40 goons; Chapter 3 certainly started to show some strain. But John Wick: Chapter 4 rebounds in glorious fashion, with a spectacle of fist and bullets with few comparisons on the big screen. Again, you don't mess with the Baba Yaga.
John Wick: Chapter 4 releases exclusively in movie theaters on March 24.
Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd (opens in new tab).
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