FILM REVIEW — The deadly fun of “John Wick 4”

Published 12:02 am Friday, March 24, 2023

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“John Wick 4”

Lionsgate Films

Directed by Chad Stahelski

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Starring Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgard, Laurence Fishburne, Shamier Anderson, Lance Reddick and Hiroyuki Sanada

Rated R

3 Stars

The latest installment in the “John Wick” franchise blasts its way into movie theaters this weekend.

The previous movies were universally adored by action fans, so anticipation for “John Wick 4” is off the charts.

I am pleased to report this film is every bit as good as its predecessors, and thanks to a bravura final hour, I think it’s the best one yet.

The story sets our titular hero (Keanu Reeves) up in a complex world of assassins and their shadowy masters. Wick has run afoul of the criminal overlords in the last films, so there is now a contract out on his head.

To be honest, as much as I do enjoy the world building in this series, the story has never been the appeal of these movies. These are films designed to showcase an overwhelming array of gunfights, car chases and martial arts sequences.

Each one is designed to be bigger and better than the last. It’s a lofty goal, but one the filmmakers achieve time and time again.

Part of this comes from the inclusion of some new characters. We have a blind assassin (Donnie Yen) whose effortless martial arts skills make him into Wick’s most formidable opponent. We also get an unnamed tracker (Shamier Anderson) who brings his dog into the fight — a nice wink for fans of the series.

It’s also satisfying to catch up with some of the characters from the other films, including Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane and Lance Reddick, who sadly passed away last week.

I saw the film before he passed, but am hoping that filmmakers scramble to add an In Memoriam title card to the credits.

These characters provide nice connective tissue for the film, but once again, it’s the action set pieces that make “John Wick 4” truly shine. Three really stand out for me.

There’s a fight against a huge gangster (Scott Adkins in a lot of body prosthetics) in a German night club where the dancers are too entranced by the music to stop dancing when the bullets start to fly.

Probably the best sequence features a car chase/gun fight with opponents circling the roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

And finally, a long sequence where Wick has to fight his way up the 300 steps to the Sacre-Coeur. Not only is this a gonzo gunfight, but it also features one of the funniest moments in the entire series.

As I said, the action sequences here are universally great, and absolutely the reason to go see this movie.

The film isn’t without some problems. Despite the thrilling action, the movie does run long (nearly three hours) and I don’t like that everybody is wearing Kevlar suits, rendering pointblank gunfights meaningless. It makes an early melee in an Osaka safehouse seem a bit silly.

I suspect that many people may intellectually register this complaint but won’t have time to dwell on it as the next fight is always threatening to erupt at any moment.

That’s the bottom line here. “John Wick 4” works because the action set pieces are so thrilling. It may be recency bias, but I think they are among the best in the entire franchise.

It turns out that “John Wick 4” is not only the latest, but the greatest entry yet.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Port Arthur Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at