Until March 21, I’d never seen a John Wick movie. I’d watched clips on YouTube, and The Matrix is my favorite movie, so with the fourth in the series coming out over Spring Break, I figured I’d binge the films to get caught up (and honor the late Lance Reddick, who played Continental concierge Charon in the series). Watching the first three films at home (over six hours of gun-fu) was thrilling, but exhausting, and I was worried I’d be Wick-ed out before I saw the new film on Friday.
Turns out John Wick 4 f-ing slaps.
All you need to know is dog-avenger John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is STILL on the run after pissing off the wrong people (to be fair, they pissed him off first by killing his beagle and stealing his Mustang) high up in the secret assassin world where one out of every four people on the streets has a silenced handgun in their jacket or a knife up their sleeve. With a multimillion-dollar bounty on his head and the insufferable Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård, who plays a very convincing Fr*nch asshole) on his ass, John Wick must do what he does best: Shoot a bunch of fools in the face.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The film is nearly three hours of John Wick shooting people, getting shot, hitting people with cars, being hit by cars, punching, stabbing and falling down stairs. The set pieces are excellently staged and choreographed, filled with crystal-clear action that’s as stylish as it is brutal. As with the other films, shaky-cam and frequent cuts are replaced by silky-smooth camera movements that create dance-like shootouts which are epic to behold. Two sequences set in Paris that I won’t spoil here are especially cool, upending the film in a way that feels fresh even after three installments.
In IMAX, the gunfire is deafening, an incredible improvement over my house’s comparatively modest sound system that rendered the gunfire mere a loud. Keanu kicks ass with every conceivable weapon or method — and invents a few along the way. I was worried the film would be old hat after binging the other three, but John Wick 4 manages to stay fresh by routinely switching up locations, methods and styles of combat. One sequence set in Japan is shiny and superhero-like, while a chase through the streets of Paris narrated by a faceless assassin DJ is scrappy and more bombastic.
Wick isn’t alone in fighting off the world, however. Blind assassin Caine (Donnie Yen), hired by Gramont to take out Wick once and for all, proves himself to be a match for Reeves’ character, presenting a compelling foil and bringing a fresh style of fighting to the franchise. Another standout performance is Scott Adkins as Killa, a burly Berlin brawler and midpoint boss character who faces off against Wick in a nightclub. Other new characters include Akira (Rina Sawayama) and Mr. Nobody, a tracker with an attack dog who wants to claim the bounty on Wick for himself, though I found these characters, especially Nobody, to be slightly underdeveloped.
Overall, John Wick 4 is a truly epic finale – upcoming spinoffs like Ballerina starring Ana de Armas notwithstanding. If I wanted to read into it, I’d say the franchise is a compelling and surprisingly thoughtful examination of the cycles of violence that accompany a world obsessed with revenge – “rules and consequences” is a common refrain throughout the film – but they also work as immensely entertaining action flicks. The plot follows familiar beats, but they feel more like returns to greatest hits rather than uninspired retreads. The film is just too damn fun to dislike.
As John Wick says, “Yeah.”