John Wick

Meticulous worldbuilding across four films, a satisfying closure to an overall arc, and relentless action make Chad Stahelski’s “John Wick: Chapter 4” an absolute blast and a must-watch on the big screen.
By Ankit Ojha on May 4, 2023

If you’ve watched “John Wick: Chapter 4” on IMAX, you’d know that director Chad Stahelski means business right from the opening shot. The resonant boom of John Wick punching shakes up the auditorium; it is enough to make you jump right out of your seat. But it serves another fundamental purpose: to acclimatize you with the heavy-handed vibe of what’s about to follow.

Taking off where “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” ended, Stahelski’s titular hero (played by Keanu Reeves; “The Matrix Resurrections,” 2021) is in training, backed by the reverberating echo of the Bowery King’s soliloquy as he walks up to him to tell him it’s time to suit up. Wick sets off on a globetrotting journey of revenge that won’t stop until he’s freed from serving the High Table.

One problem: in reaction to Wick’s rampage, the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård; “Barbarian,” 2022) decides to make an example out of him and sets the world on his tail. Traveling from Berlin to Japan to Paris, Wick gets help from some old friends—while fighting others—and makes new, often mysterious acquaintances that he may or may not be able to trust yet.

If the previous installments in the “John Wick” series are anything to go by, it’s clear Stahelski and writers Shay Hatten and Michael Finch take the world very seriously. This commitment to the makers’ sincerity to their material doesn’t change in “John Wick: Chapter 4,” in which they rev up the drama and make sure no stone is left unturned in making you feel how important everything happening in the narrative is. 

However, creating and expanding upon the film’s overall darkness didn’t deter Stahelski and co. from engaging in some light, tongue-in-cheek humor where warranted. A stunningly shot scene in a nightclub set in Berlin has some of the most parodical The-Hero-That-Can’t-Die moments where when—in a moment of frustration—one of Wick’s antagonists yells, “Why can’t you die?,” it has the chance to generate a genuine laugh out of you.

John Wick: Chapter 4
From Arasaka to Osaka // Keanu Reeves in a still from Chad Stahelski’s John Wick: Chapter 4, a Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment, Thunder Road and 87Eleven film

Other moments of levity come from Donnie Yen (“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” 2016), who effortlessly flits between existential nihilism and situational comedy. He’s one of the biggest draws of “John Wick: Chapter 4” and a formidable presence as an action star in his own right. However, the rest of the movie’s narrative rests on its grim emotional weight—like what you’d see in a 5-act Shakespearean revenge tragedy.

Audiences more accustomed to the action-comedy bracket the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has safely dominated for more than a decade may or may not warm up to it, but fans of the “John Wick” series don’t have much to worry about; they’ve already been accustomed to the emotional crescendo that saw a gradual rise from “Chapter 2” to meet its imminent high-note in the current installment.

Of course, the series’s USPs have always been its excellent action choreography and breathlessly filmed and edited set-pieces, and “John Wick: Chapter 4” is no different. Boasting a relentlessly paced progression of the most bonkers action I’ve seen in a long time, Stahelski’s newest has Wick bludgeoning his enemies in the middle of a busy nightclub, in an abandoned building, at the busy roundabout surrounding the Arc de Triomphe, on a LONG stairway, on a horse chase across a desert; take your pick of the most bombastic set-piece you want to imagine, and there’s a high chance you’ll find it in the movie.

At almost three hours long, it’s pretty apparent Stahelski fired all his remaining bullets with “John Wick: Chapter 4,” creating a sendoff that’s just about vague enough to leave open the possibility of a sequel but still feels like a satisfying conclusion to a four-film arc that literally started with the protagonist exacting revenge on the killers of his pet beagle. Much like the story in the first three films, the fourth and final (?) film in the “John Wick” mainline series doesn’t boast the most groundbreaking plot on paper.

And that’s perfectly okay. Because Stahelski doesn’t worry about the what; to him, it’s the how that matters. And it’s what makes the movie so good.

Packed with meticulously designed worldbuilding across multiple films, excellent physical turns from Reeves, Yen, Hiroyuki Sanada (“Bullet Train,” 2022) and Skarsgård, and incredible action set pieces, “John Wick: Chapter 4” is a fantastic conclusion of an arc, a must-watch for action buffs, and an essential visit to the big screen. Highly recommended.