John Wick: Chapter 4 movie review (2023)
So much fun. The choreography of the action here can be simply breathtaking. I loved how often the world goes on around Wick and his unfortunate combatants. In a sequence that would be the best in almost any other recent action movie (but is like 3rd or 4th here), Wick has to battle a makeup-covered Scott Adkins and his army of unlucky idiots in a crowded nightclub. The dancers barely notice. They sometimes part a little bit to let them through, but they don’t stop and stare. With water pouring into the club, the writhing, and dancing bodies make for such a visually inventive backdrop. Later, in one of my favorite action sequences of all time, Wick and his predators battle in the traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe. The cars don’t stop. In fact, it feels like they speed up. As shots ring out in the streets in this film, no one opens the window to see what the hell is going on. The world outside of Wick and the mythology of this world almost feels like they can’t even see the legendary assassin and the hundred or so people he ends up killing. It’s a fascinating, visually striking choice.
And then there’s what I would call Action Geography. So many people have tried to mimic the frenetic approach of the “Bourne” movies since their release, and the results have often been more incoherent than not. The amazing cinematographer Dan Laustsen (a regular Guillermo del Toro collaborator on “The Shape of Water,” “Nightmare Alley,” and more) works with Stahelski to make sure the action here is clean and brutal, never confusing. The stunt work is phenomenal, and, again, the shoot-outs have the feel of dance choreography more than the bland plot-pushing of so many studio films. There’s just so much grace and ingenuity whenever Wick goes to work.
Of course, a great cast helps too. Reeves might have fewer lines in this movie than any so far in the franchise, but he completely sells Wick’s commitment while also imbuing him with emotional exhaustion that adds more gravity to this chapter. The vengeful Wick of the first film is a different one than the survivor three movies later and Reeves knows exactly what this character needs. So many performers would add unnecessary touches to a character that’s already this popular, but Reeves is smart about streamlining this performance to fit the film around him. It also allows for a few supporters to shine in different performance registers, especially Yen and Anderson. The legendary Yen is fantastic here, not just in combat but in the moments in between. Most people who know who Donnie Yen is won’t be surprised to hear that he fits in here perfectly, but he’s even better than you expect. Anderson also gives a fun performance as a man who just seems to be a mercenary waiting for the right price, but fans of the series will note from the beginning that this badass has a dog, and this universe values puppies and people who love them.