Ian Thomas Malone

chapter 4 Archive



March 2023



John Wick: Chapter 4 is a breathtaking, exhausting cinematic experience

Written by , Posted in Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

The existential question of why we still go to movie theatres loses some its subjectivity in the streaming age. There are explicit gravitational forces that bring us back to the majesty of the big screen, with all its splendor, even when we could watch the same material weeks later from the comforts of our own homes. We go to the theater to be excited, to see things we’ve never seen before, to recapture that sense of awe and wonder that first marveled our young eyes as children.

The John Wick series built a franchise out of a bankable actor, a dead dog, and some of the most beautiful fight choreography to ever grace the big screen. John Wick is ballet for the Grand Theft Auto generation, the genre superseding any preconceived notions of its limitations to metamorphize into something bigger. John Wick is, unironically, art.

John Wick: Chapter 4 takes place six months after the events of Chapter 3 – Parabellum, a massive time jump considering the first three covered a span of about ten days. Wick (Keanu Reeves) is still seeking revenge on the High Table, who are in turn still sending hundreds of assassins to kill him. It’s still not very easy to be John’s friend, a reality that Winston (Ian McShane), Charon (Lance Reddick), and newcomer Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada) are forced to confront when the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) arrives to clean up the High Table’s mess. The Marquis enlists the help of blind elite assassin Caine (Donnie Yen) to take Wick out once and for all.

Chapter 4 is not a narratively ambitious film. The overstuffed runtime is buoyed by exceptional fight sequences, as well the relief that the franchise seems to understand its own limitations. Director Chad Stahelski doesn’t exactly top any of Parabellum’s superb action choreography, introducing a few cool tricks into the mix along the way, but he also doesn’t drag the movie much further into the weeds of High Table exposition either. This is the first film in the franchise that doesn’t try to exponentially expand the criminal underworld. Despite carrying a 169-minute runtime, a full half-hour longer than its predecessor, Chapter 4 feels more restrained in its delivery.

Yen’s choreography goes a long way toward differentiating Chapter 4 from Parabellum, delivering most of the film’s memorable fight scenes. Reeve’s stunt work is exceptional as always, though his performance is a little stiff at times. Maybe understandably, John Wick looks tired, a sentiment many in the audience will undoubtedly share by the time the credits roll.

Chapter 4 is a ton of fun to watch on the big screen. It’s also the first film in the franchise that doesn’t top the one that came before. Parabellum has better acting, writing, and fight choreography, a far more immersive experience delivered with a shorter runtime. What works most about Chapter 4 is the sense that it doesn’t try to be bigger.

The fact that Chapter 4 isn’t as good isn’t particularly a letdown, but a sign of maturity for the filmmakers. The franchise carries the weight of its absurd body count, eager to take a step back and process everything that’s happened up to this point. We’re not used to that kind of restraint from major franchises. At a time when superhero movies bloat themselves with additional characters and explosions with each installment, John Wick looks relaxed, and confident in its own course. No one would be fooled into believing there won’t be sequels and spinoffs until the end of time, but blockbusting filmmaking could learn a lot from the way John Wick approaches the craft.