Review: ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ honors franchise in a ferocious frenzy

Ben Churney, news correspondent

Jaw-dropping action, timeless Parisian landmarks, a club with waterfalls and a new dog! “John Wick: Chapter 4” is yet another addition to the franchise that brings unbelievable action, characters to root for, skillful cinematic tools and more. 

Keanu Reeves, Lance Reddick (whose recent tragic passing has caused an outpouring of love and support from fans), Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne return to star in the latest installment of the beloved film series, along with a flashy new cast of characters featuring Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Shamier Anderson and more. Among all these performances, Yen stands alone, completely taking over every scene he is in, captivating the audience in the process. The cinematic world that the “John Wick” franchise takes place in can feel like a fantastical playground for pure insanity, but the performances and dedication these actors bring to their characters help elevate the franchise and rope the viewer in. 

In the fourth film, John Wick (Reeves) continues his violent attempt at all-out revenge, as he tries to take out even larger players than the previous films, while also fending off assassins worldwide vying for his ever-increasing bounty. Marquis, played by Skarsgård, is tasked by the High Table (the seemingly all-powerful organization within the underworld) to eliminate Wick, as well as anything that he has touched. With such a dark and brooding storyline, in which a husband goes on a killing spree in an attempt to avenge his late wife, dog and car, the “John Wick” films do a great job at not letting the films get too somber.

Let’s start with the best part of these films — the action. Throughout the franchise, the “John Wick” films have always put on a show with their absurd yet gorgeous violence. Although the action is incredible, there’s also a comical nature to it, reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton. Take, for example, when Mr. Wick falls down flight after flight of stairs in an attempt to arrive at his final duel. It’s a perfect scene to demonstrate the way this franchise makes some shots so exaggerated and absurd that they come across as light-hearted. By having this comical action, as well as other instances of comedy through dialogue and character relationships, viewers can catch their breath and not feel engulfed by the somewhat dark premise. 

The choreography, chemistry between characters and passion of the actors in “John Wick: Chapter 4” all amount to a mind-blowing watching experience enhanced by the film’s Parisian backdrop. One scene in particular, shot at the Arc de Triomphe, surrounds the viewers and the beloved protagonist with cars zipping around, dogs leaping through the air and bullets whizzing by. Not only is it a fantastic scene shot at a historic landmark, but the sequence’s dynamic use of space and movement could also make it one of the best action scenes of all time. 

At two hours and 49 minutes, the film may seem exciting for some, but intimidating for others. The official runtime for “John Wick: Chapter 4” is evidence of director Chad Stahelski’s ambition for this installment. A nearly three-hour-long blockbuster to (possibly) wrap up the franchise could turn some viewers away, but the entire cast and crew make every last-minute count. The start was a little slow, as it didn’t feel like the most captivating opening scene, but after that, the film stomps on the gas and never lets up. Every scene after was entertaining and a joy to watch. Stahelski is certainly at his best in this film, as his determination to continue to improve the franchise is evident once again. 

On a more technical level, the cinematography in “John Wick: Chapter 4” is by far the best the franchise has put out yet. From the gorgeous shots with neon lights to the never-ending wide-angle shots of the Parisian landscape, the camera work is some of the best that viewers will get this year. One of the finest shots has to be the overhead of Wick tearing through a household, taking out one foe after another. Awe-inspiring and unique camerawork like this is emblematic of Stahelski’s attempt to continually outdo himself. 

With a great start at the box office, “John Wick: Chapter 4” is a prime example of what franchises should focus on: improvement! With this improvement by Stahelski to propel the franchise to its peak, it’s not surprising to see the critical acclaim it has received. The fourth installment of the “John Wick” franchise shows that viewers want fun, quality entertainment. There’s no need for a multitude of celebrity cameos, as the focus is on making a great film that builds upon the series’ previous entries. This isn’t a unique takeaway for “John Wick: Chapter 4,” but rather another example of a film that shows the promise of modern cinema and how quality (and, in this case, a near-perfect action film) can truly come from any franchise.