Writing a John Wick: Chapter 4 review may sound like a foolhardy mission. Movies like this are almost review-proof — people will see them no matter what. But when you enjoy a movie as much as I enjoyed this chapter, it's not an impossible task that will remind you of John Wick taking down Tarasov's enemies. It's a labor of love.
But, to get this out of the way up front, John Wick 4 has a problem with excess. Not necessarily in its plot, but in its running time. This movie should not be two hours and 49 minutes long. We've come a long way — too far one might say — from the first John Wick, which was an efficient 96-minute ride.
That said, as much as John Wick: Chapter 4 would have benefitted from a shorter runtime, it's still just as good as any other chapter of the series. Allow me to explain why. While I'm going to put a brief spoiler warning up front, I'll keep things to a minimum, and not say anything I wouldn't have wanted to know before I saw it.
John Wick: Chapter 4 opens up the JWCU
While Mr. Wick (Keanu Reeves) does get plenty to do in this movie, this chapter stands out by opening up the field to potential new heroes. Unfortunately for John, two of them are out to kill him.
That would be a nameless tracker (Shamier Anderson) and Caine (Donny Yen), both have reason to kill John, thanks to the vengeful Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), who sees Wick as a threat to be eliminated. And while Caine and Wick have a shared past and respect, the tracker (aka Mr. Nobody) is a new figure.
Caine and Mr. Nobody come off as remarkably cool and worthy of spinoff movies, and will have you ready for a John Wick Cinematic Universe. Oh, and make sure to keep an eye out for Akira — the character played by actor/singer/model Rina Sawayama.
While the Marquis is completely devoid of the enigmatic cool of Wick and Winston, his scene-chewing swagger — completed with a killer opulent wardrobe — screams he's the villain with blunt-force obviousness. But everyone else made me think 'I want to know more.' This a sure sign that Stahelski and Reeves are ready to tell new stories.
Unfortunately, the late Lance Reddick is barely in the movie.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is a delightful global adventure
While a video game-esque scene in Paris — which looks like either John Wick: Hex or the Hotline: Miami games — was one of the film's most memorable action scenes, the fourth Wick film partially rules thanks to its excellent changes of scenery. From the wild west-style chaos early on, to the Osaka Continental hotel and excellent big Arc de Triomphe set piece, John Wick: Chapter 4 continues to offer the getaway escapism that we seek at the multiplex.
And, throughout, comedic notes constantly keep the audience guessing about what's happening. In particular, a stairs scene — and the way Mr. Nobody communicates to his dog — had me laughing hard.
And throughout, especially with a touching sunrise shot at the near-end of the film, you may find yourself 'ooh'ing and 'ahh'ing — as John Wick's fourth adventure is as delightful to the eye as it is gory. Credit goes to cinematographer Dan Laustsen — who had the same role for John Wick chapters 2 and 3 — for the elevated aesthetics in this action movie. They're part of what makes John Wick movies feel like action movies for film nerds with Letterbox accounts.
John Wick: Chapter 4 fights between excess and bloat
For as much as I loved to turn the pages of Chapter 4, I did find myself looking at my watch during the third hour. Once I saw the running time, I kept thinking "what is this, John Wick: Endgame?" While Stahelski loves his maximalism, there's a bit of just-too-much happening that veers into bloat.
The biggest issue I have is how many different fights we get at the Osaka Continental. While the green-light-soaked brawl is neat, the rooftop shoot-out, the kitchen scene and the chaos in the museum were far better. Each could have been trimmed down in parts, and it would have been all the better for it. Just don't lose the nunchucks.
There's also the entire Berlin subplot, which serves the plot a little more than it serves everything else. Wick's adoptive sister Katia (Natalia Tena) is a welcome addition, but when she doesn't get much to do, her introduction feels more like padding than a skeletal addition. While John Wick movies have always felt all-killer, no-filler, I do wonder what a two-hour cut would have looked like.
Bottom line: Keanu Reeves' biggest opus yet
Throughout the John Wick films, there have been two constants: action and momentum. Both, mostly, are driven and perfected by Reeves' pitch-perfect work as the Baba Yaga himself. Chapter 4, though, doesn't forget to take its time to remember where it all started, with John Wick's eternal love for his late wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) and an appreciation of dogs.
For as unrealistic as the John Wick movies are — and the clinking of bullet shells falling from our heroes jacket as he disrobes is a fun reminder of the over-the-top nature — Reeves' ability to emote and show care truly helps the John Wick movies steer away from farce.
I left the theater excited for the future of the John Wick cinematic universe, and ready to see what's next for all parties involved.