‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ is best in the franchise, suffers from long runtime

The Lantern
Keanu Reeves as “John Wick in John Wick 4.” Credit: Murray Close/Lionsgate via TNS

The “John Wick” series has come a long way from an ex-hitman seeking revenge for the killing of his dog, the last gift he received from his wife before her sudden death. While “John Wick: Chapter 4” has all the elements of the fast-paced action and delightfully unrealistic fight scenes that fans grew to love in the original, the world and mythology around Wick has greatly expanded, which is reflected in its generous near three-hour runtime.

In “John Wick: Chapter 4,” Wick (Keanu Reeves) finds himself once again on the run from The High Table, the governing council of crime underlords and assassins under which Wick was once employed. This time, he is hunted by Marquis (Bill Skarsgård), a French crime lord appointed by the Table for the sole purpose of tracking down Wick, and his army of hitmen and resources supplied by the Table. Along the way, Wick must face off against Caine (Donnie Yen), a former friend and co-worker of Wick’s and considered to be the only one who can rival him in combat, and Tracker (Shamier Anderson), a bounty hunter sporting a dog.

Chad Stahelski, who directed the first three “John Wick” movies, returns once again to direct this chapter, but he kicks everything in the movie up a notch. The cinematography of “John Wick: Chapter 4” is undoubtedly stunning, fully embracing the neo-noir aesthetic by bathing dark scenes in neon light and internally framing fights with expert set design. The film heavily uses establishing shots, as it jumps to many different locations. Stahelski and his team use these shots as an opportunity for some slow pans to painting-esque landscape shots, rather than devices to move the plot along.

The fight choreography has always been a driving factor behind the success of the “John Wick” movies, but like the cinematography, “John Wick: Chapter 4” goes bigger and better. Caine, who is blind, particularly steals the show with increasingly creative ways of downing his foes. Unfortunately, the long runtime leaves some of the action sequences feeling repetitive or gratuitous as the movie goes along. While there are attempts to make each fight unique, some end up being more memorable than others — specifically the ones that don’t rely solely on guns for combat. Audiences that want variety may find themselves looking for more, but those happy with the fight sequences in previous “Wick” films are sure to be more than overjoyed at “John Wick: Chapter 4.”

Another aspect of “John Wick: Chapter 4” that may leave audiences divided is the disregard of realism in its action sequences. There are times where Wick seems more like a human bouncy ball than a real person made of flesh and bone as he’s thrown down stairs, falls off of buildings and deflects bullets off him. If the film was going for a more realistic angle, he should’ve died about every five minutes. Suspension of disbelief is a must-have to enjoy most of the action, but once you accept the insanity, it becomes much more enjoyable.

“John Wick: Chapter 4” also draws inspiration from other action movie tropes. There’s a sequence at a nightclub in the middle of the film that seems nearly identical to a scene in 2022’s “The Batman,” for instance. While mirroring other films may be fun for some of the audience, comparison may steal the joy from viewers as they find themselves thinking of the ways other movies did it better.

Overall, “John Wick: Chapter 4” should be regarded as one of the best action films in recent years, and will likely be considered the best “John Wick” film by audiences.

Rating: 3.5/5

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