I will be honest.
Slumping in my seat, still groggy from my post-Oscars red eyes, I wasn’t expecting much from John Wick: Chapter 4. The last episode was adequate, but it felt like it was time to lift the curtain on John Wick and his never-ending mission of revenge.
For the record, dear reader, I was wrong. Very bad.
Reunited once again with stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski, Keanu Reeves delivered a bold and artful film. There’s a grandiose, almost operatic quality to Wick’s mission as he grits his teeth, once again determined to “kill ’em all”.
Let’s be honest, Keanu Reeves isn’t an actor for everything. But the John Wick The franchise, which exploded onto screens in 2014, proved to be the perfect vehicle for his particular skills.
Reeves is not a chameleon. Unlike Meryl Streep or Kelvin Harrison Jr., he doesn’t disappear into a role. Instead, like a Christopher Walken, Samuel L. Jackson, or Carol Kane, there’s an essence he brings to every performance.
Now approaching his sixth decade, Reeves has become more comfortable with himself as we have grown accustomed to watching him. There’s a reason it’s so memorable. On the surface, it may seem like a blank slate, but that’s Keanu’s zen. There is honesty and authenticity in what he does.
What Reeves brings to Wick is a passion for action and martial arts. Teaming up with Chad Stahelski, who first met Reeves as a stuntman in The matrixthe two created the world of the High Table, where dark crime lords control a secret economy of assassins.
Chapter 4 finds Wick rising after being left for dead. After going against the High Table’s wishes, the consequences are disastrous for the New York Continental and its manager Winston, played by the ever erudite and profane Ian McShane.
The reverberations rippling through Wick’s world are driven by a change in personnel. Bill Skarsgard plays Marquis De Gramont, the Table’s newest enforcer, determined to deal with Wick permanently.
Part of the escapist thrill of the Wickiverse is the way Stahelski balances beldam with old-world charm. The High Table is a shadow realm with its own rules, codes and currency. When Wick meets to propose a trial by combat, it’s at a long ornate table in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, with the men drawing metal cards to choose their weapons.
You don’t stop to think about who cut and made this deadly game, but rather pause to appreciate the satisfying “clunk” they make as Wick flips a slab signifying guns.
While the collection of globetrotting locations adds to the atmosphere, Wick also owes a debt of gratitude to the painstaking casting. Consider Lance Reddick who passed away suddenly last week. Reddick played Charon, the janitor at the Continental who helped add a civilized air to the realm of relentless killers. Reeves had so much respect for Reddick that he reportedly passed her birthday watching reddick act. After the shocking news of Reddick’s death, Stahelski and Reeves dedicated John Wick: Chapter 4 in his memory.
The new film also welcomes new faces to the world of Wick, including Toronto’s Shamier Anderson as a mysterious player known only as Tracker. In simple combat gear with his own trusty hound by his side, the Stalker stays on the sidelines, watching and waiting for the right moment to strike.
Martial arts legend Donnie Yen is another welcome addition, as Caine, a blind assassin forced to fight Wick. Her face obscured by sunglasses, Yen radiates charm. His fighting style is one of economy, as he uses a hand, a staff, and even a collection of bells to evade his attackers. Only Yen could get away with souping up loudly, before dispatching his foes with speed and style.
The final element that makes the fourth film a must-have is the creativity of the combat itself. As an army of killers gathers on Wick, Stahelski serves up a buffet of heckling. For an appetizer, we begin with a horseback gunfight in the desert, followed by a showdown in a Japanese hotel, with the enemies dove-and-dodge in a neon-lit art gallery.
WATCH | John Wick: Chapter 4 Clip from the movie – Arc de Triomphe (2023)
Rather than coast, Stahelski’s camera dips and dips, constantly finding new waves to capture the violent ballet. In one scene, we’re floating above the walls watching over Wick with a deadly bird’s eye view. In another, we skid through the streets of Paris as Reeves whips a muscle car around the Arc de Triomphe.
There is a strong sense of physicality in what John Wick endures. With the days of Bill and Ted far behind him, you can hear Reeves’ short, high-pitched breaths as he smashes his way through the endless opponents. It’s this level of commitment, not the bulletproof suits, that makes John Wick’s return such a believable and enjoyable escape.
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