Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 49 minutes, Director – Chad Stahelski
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) discovers that he can have the bounty removed from his head if he wins in a duel against the Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) of the High Table, however it’s a long road to get there filled with many people trying to stop him.
Over the last nine years John Wick has undeniably had more than the living daylights kicked out of him. However, if this is the case then he’s shot, kicked, beaten, stabbed, run over and pencil-ed the life out of anyone who gets in his way. It shows in Keanu Reeves’ performance in this fourth instalment. Despite still having the power and fury to continue fighting within him the world has made Wick’s goal seem almost impossible. Wanting to live his life in peace he first needs to have his excommunicado status removed. The way to do this? Challenging the Marquis de Gramont of the High Table (Bill Skarsgård) to a duel, and winning. However, there’s a long road to get there.
Faces new and old block the clearly tired and worn out Wick’s path to his goal – sometimes in the first hour it feels as if we don’t see him for good stretches of time. Every location houses a new antagonist rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of claiming the increasing price on the head of one of the most stylish characters to grace action cinema. Each one also supplying a new backdrop with plenty of items, and obstacle, to heighten the action. There’s a somewhat surprising almost three hour run-time to this film and much of it houses a number of extensive action sequences. Many of which flow not just because of the editing but how much is happening in one moment.
The key to the action sequences is often that they’re made up of smaller sequences which connect and flow into each other. Allowing for more ideas and styles to be played with, and preventing one idea from being drawn out for too long. All further heightened by the detail put into the world that this franchise has created as a whole (largely when wound into the plot rather than taking the fore in the somewhat slow build up). There’s plenty of entertainment value to be found in this underworld of assassins and the various rules by which it plays by, a number of which push the narrative along; used best when the film displays that it clearly knows when to take a breather. There’s a chance the film could begin to fall into a plot which jumps from place to place to place and back simply to have more happening, or just to add to the run-time, however here that feeling is avoided simply down to the punchiness of such points and the ways in which they lead to further thrilling action.
There’s a video game-like nature to certain narrative elements, further fuelled by a number of close-up fights when Wick and those around him are dealing with multiple attackers at once. The swiftness and decisions of such tones are infused for a bigger push for the action. Adding to the tension which is already present from the fact that it’s clear that Wick is showing signs that he’s wearing thin. He may be desperate to escape this life, and the knowledge that about twenty someones are always around the corner waiting for him with sharpened knives and loaded pistols, but its going to be difficult. It shows in the body count and extensive nature of the first prominent set of fights. One which early on settles you in (as much as you can into something such as this) to the style and course that this fourth entry into this franchise offers.
With plenty going on at all times it’s easy to be thrilled and engaged in the extensive action sequences. There’s plenty on screen that can simply be described as ‘cool’, particularly bringing a smile to your face as the details are played into and expand the ever-fascinating world in which these events play out. There may be a gradual re-entry into it, but once there there’s plenty to enjoy within the expectedly finely structured and choreographed action of the film. Deeply enjoyable this largely shows off the best elements of the franchise with great effect.
The action sequences are filled with plenty of styles and elements to allow for the extensive nature of them to be pulled off. However, John Wick: Chapter 4 knows when to take a breather and still bring tension to the moment through the detail of the criminal underworld. Wick may seem tired here but he still leads with plenty of thrillingly engaging fire.