Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)

John Wick returns to the silver screen in this neo-noir action thriller film that was released on March 24, 2023. In this fourth instalment in the John Wick franchise starring Keanu Reeves, John Wick sets out to get revenge on the High Table and those who left him for dead. The movie introduces Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard), a new threat to John Wick. The film also features Donnie Yen as Caine, a blind assassin and John’s old friend; Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King, an underground crime lord who allies with John; and Ian McShane as Winston, the former manager of the New York Continental hotel. The movie also features Scott Adkins as Killa, a fierce but overweight assassin who works for the main villain, the Marquis.

The Basic Plot

John Wick: Chapter 4 follows John Wick as he seeks revenge on the High Table, the council of crime lords who rule the underworld. He travels to Morocco and kills the Elder, the leader of the High Table, and then faces a new enemy, the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard), who has been given unlimited resources to hunt him down. John teams up with his old friend Caine (Donnie Yen), a blind assassin, and other allies to fight his way through various locations, including Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, and New York. He eventually confronts the Marquis in a temple in Japan, where they engage in a brutal duel. John manages to kill the Marquis, but the film ends with a shocking twist that leaves John’s fate uncertain.

John Wick: Chapter 4 is as stylish as the others in the franchise and more. The movie uses a vibrant color palette and lighting to create a contrast between the dark and gritty underworld of assassins and the glamorous and exotic locations that John Wick travels to. The movie also uses neon signs, mirrors, and glass to create a visually stunning and dynamic atmosphere. The movie draws inspiration from various sources, such as Dante’s Inferno, Lawrence of Arabia, The Warriors, and other action movies. The movie combines score and source music, using original compositions by Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard, as well as songs by Le Castle Vania, Manon Hollander, Lola Colette, and others.

Cast & Crew

The movie is directed by Chad Stahelski, who has directed or co-directed all four John Wick movies. He has decades of experience in Hollywood working as a stuntman, stunt coordinator, and fight choreographer. Some of the actors featured in the movie are veteran action stars- 

Donnie Yen is one of Hong Kong’s most renowned action movie stars, who brought MMA into mainstream martial arts films. He is best known for playing Ip Man, Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun master, in four movies. He also appeared in Hollywood movies like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and xXx: Return of Xander Cage.

Hiroyuki Sanada is a Japanese actor and martial artist who has appeared in movies like The Last Samurai, Sunshine, The Wolverine, and Mortal Kombat. He trained in Karate and Shitō-ryū since childhood and holds a black belt.

Scott Adkins is a veteran action star and martial artist who has appeared in movies like Undisputed II: Last Man Standing, The Expendables 2, Doctor Strange, and Ip Man 4: The Finale. He trained in various martial arts styles, including Taekwondo, Kickboxing, Judo, Karate, and Jujutsu. Adkins, who is known for his athletic and muscular physique in his previous action movies, had to undergo a drastic transformation with the help of a fat suit and facial prosthetics.

Fight Sequences

As always, the thrill of John Wick is in its fight sequences. In Chapter 4, we are not disappointed. Some of the memorable sequences include-

  • The horseback chase in the Moroccan desert, where John shoots three enemies off their horses before confronting the Elder.
  • The fight in the Berlin nightclub, where John teams up with Caine and The Tracker to take on Killa’s goons, using axes and playing cards as weapons.
  • The showdown with Killa, who proves to be extremely resilient and agile, despite being shot and sliced multiple times by John.
  • The Arc de Triomphe chase scene, where John rides a motorcycle through Paris traffic and fights off assassins on bikes and cars.
  • The temple duel with the Marquis, where John and his enemy use swords, guns, and martial arts in a brutal and bloody battle.

Behind the Scenes

As always, John Wick goes all out to make the movie as thrilling as possible. Here are some interesting behind-the-scenes factoids-

  • The Arc de Triomphe chase scene, where John rides a motorcycle through Paris traffic, was filmed on location with real cars and bikes. The production had to get special permission from the French government to close off the streets and use drones and helicopters for aerial shots.
  • Keanu Reeves did most of his own stunts and fight choreography, training for months with martial arts experts and weapons specialists. He also learned how to ride a horse for the opening scene in Morocco.
  • Donnie Yen, who plays Caine, a blind assassin and John’s old friend, also performed his own stunts and fights. He wore special contact lenses that impaired his vision and used echolocation to navigate his surroundings.
  • Bill Skarsgard, who plays the Marquis Vincent de Gramont, the main antagonist of the film, had to wear a prosthetic scar on his face that took hours to apply and remove. He also had to learn French for his role.
  • The stairwell scene, where John climbs and falls hundreds of steps while fighting enemies, was inspired by Lawrence of Arabia and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It took over a month to film and involved a lot of wire work and stunt coordination.

Easter Eggs & Hidden References

We also find some interesting hidden references and easter eggs during the movie-

  • The opening scene in Morocco is inspired by Lawrence of Arabia, with a match cut from a burning matchstick to a sunrise and a shot of horse riders in the desert.
  • John’s birth name Jardani is mentioned by Katia, a member of the Ruska Roma syndicate that raised him.
  • John’s wedding ring is missing after he severed his finger in the previous film and failed to retrieve it from the Elder.
  • Harbinger, a high-ranking member of the High Table, also has four fingers on one hand, implying that he had to cut off one of his fingers to prove his loyalty in the past.
  • The movie features several references to Dante’s Inferno, such as the opening quote, the nine action scenes that John goes through, and the final duel at a church.
  • Scott Adkins’ character Killa is a mix of Marvel’s Kingpin and Al Pacino’s Oscar-nominated turn as Big Boy Caprice in “Dick Tracy”.

Critical Response

The critic’s and public’s response to the movie has been mostly positive. The movie has received a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 331 reviews, with an average score of 8.1/10. The audience score was 93% based on over 5,000 verified ratings. The critics praised the movie for its stunning action sequences, its cast of martial arts stars, its visual style, and its mythological references.

Some of the criticisms were about the movie’s excessive length, its lack of character development, its thin plot, and its setup for potential spin-offs. In any case, the movie performed well at the box office, grossing over $146 million domestically and over $300 million worldwide.

The Verdict

Overall the movie is a thrilling and satisfying action movie with amazing fight scenes, a simple but engaging plot, a charismatic cast, and a unique style. It also pays homage to the previous movies and expands the John Wick universe in interesting ways. Definitely recommended to anyone who enjoys action movies or Keanu Reeves.

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