John Wick: Chapter 4

A third sequel that shoots and scores.

The “John Wick” franchise keeps getting better and better. When I first saw the original movie in 2014, I’ve never expected it to be this entertaining-the kind that helped revived Keanu Reeves’ career after “47 Ronin” was a massive failure. This franchise reminds us on why we loved his roles in such action blockbusters as “Speed” or “The Matrix.” Each “John Wick” sequel has been able to transcend on higher levels-the kind that doesn’t require superhero capes or wall-to-wall CGI effects.

Now, we’re on to “John Wick: Chapter 4,” and don’t be annoyed that it runs for less than 3 hours, because it goes by very quickly. We’ve waited for years to see how John (Reeves) will get his revenge on the High Table, how he’ll reunite with Winston (Ian McShane) after the older man threw him off a roof, and whether or not he’ll finally get his freedom. Besides if you sat through “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which was much longer, and if you drink little sips at a time, I think you’ll survive.

In time when superhero films have more or less won the public over (“Ant-Man and the Wasp” and “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” are bombing on both sides), there has to be action films that don’t require only commercialism to bring people into the theater. They also require patience, professional stuntmen, a real reason for their existence, and most importantly-writers. You need a challenging story for an action film, don’t you? Them and an ambitious filmmaker. In “John Wick: Chapter 4,” Shay Hatten and Michael Finch are those writers and Chad Stahelski is the filmmaker, and they’ve made one Hell of a fourth outing.

You have John dealing with two main assassins who we like to consider both friends and foes. There’s the blind Caine (Donnie Yen), whose doesn’t need sight to use a gun or a samurai sword; and there’s the bounty hunter named Tracker (Shamier Anderson), who has a dog as his sidekick. And they both find themselves associated with the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), a powerful member of the High Table, who wants John dead. Him and the rest of the assassins who get the text that the price for his head has increased.

To earn his freedom, Wick must settle this the old fashioned way.

“John Wick: Chapter 4” is the best of the series for a number of reasons. You’re looking at a number of fight sequences-all well choreographed, beautifully photographed, and outrageously entertaining. They’re the kind of R-rated fights that rank with the giants. I can’t spoil the best one, in particular, but it comes near the end. And they’re also the kind to make the audience gasp, laugh, and applaud. I was in that crowd, and I reacted in those ways.

To have Reeves keep his John Wick hairstyle when he’s in the Matrix was ridiculous in “The Matrix Resurrections,” which I considered campy entertainment. When he has his John Wick hairstyle in “John Wick,” you know that’s him. And it isn’t just the hair we should just single out, but also his dialogue, development, and stunt work. Yes, he has help from stuntmen and a special effects team, but he knows how to sell a franchise without indulging in the audience.

And the supporting work is often dangerously entertaining. Not only regulars Laurence Fishburne (as the Bowery King) McShane, and the recently departed Lance Reddick (as the hotel concierge Charon), but also newcomers Skarsgård, Anderson, Yen, Hiroyuki Sanada (as John’s old friend Koji-the manager of an Ōsaka hotel), Rina Sawayama (as Koji’s daughter) Scott Adkins (wearing a fat suit and grillz as a German card dealer), Natalia Tena (as John’s adoptive sister Katia), and Clancy Brown (as a High Table operative).

When each entry in this franchise wants to push itself further, it aims high and reaches high. And “John Wick: Chapter 4” reaches really high. High enough to bring in the ones who enjoyed “Creed III” and who disliked “Shazam: Fury of the Gods.” Bring on the knives and guns, and in this case, dogs and steps.

Rating: 4 out of 4.

Categories: Action, Crime, Sequel, Thriller

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