John Wick uncovers a path to defeating The High Table. But before he can earn his freedom, Wick must face off against a new enemy with powerful alliances across the globe and forces that turn old friends into foes.
Editing: Nathan Orloff
Music: Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, George Georgiou, Lance Reddick, Clancy Brown, Ian McShane, Marko Zaror, Bill Skarsgård, Donnie Yen, Aimée Kwan, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, Rina Sawayama
Directors: Chad Stahelski
Writers: Shay Hatten, Michael Finch, Derek Kolstad (based on characters by)
Cinematography: Dan Laustsen
The boogeyman, aka John Wick, aka Jonathan, aka Baba Yaga, aka Jardani. No matter the name, you know the reputation. Like the story where he killed a guy with a pencil. A pencil! Who does that? The man with nothing left to live for does, and that’s John Wick. He’s back, and when the High Table will do nothing more than have him killed, he has nothing left to do but stop them.
After being asked more than once if he knows how this will end, Wick is determined to get his life back. Since his wife’s death only months before his car was stolen and his dog was murdered, Wick has not stopped being hunted and hunting to get back to the life he fought to have.
We left Wick in Chapter 3: Parabellum being wheeled in a trolley underground to the Bowery King. We meet him again in Chapter 4, a picture of health as he trains in preparation for the showdown. The Bowery King holds a new suit in front of him and asks, “are you ready?”
This sets a trip around the world in motion as he seeks to bring down the High Table. First, he must find the one above the High Table, The Elder. With less effort than his last visit, The Elder explains his fruitless journey to Wick. They will just replace The Elder if Wick kills him. With what seems like no plan, Wick kills him. Now the Maquis, a senior French member of the High Table, has taken it upon himself to have John Wick killed once and for all.
With a bounty on his head and the expertise of blind assassin Caine hot on his tail, Wick’s next stop is Japan and the Osaka Continental. Calling in the help of an old friend and the hotel Manager, Shimazu, Wick realises the relentless power of Marquis. However, Wick challenges the Marquis to a duel and, if accepted, will seal his fate to be a free man. But the cost to be free may be more than he bargained for.
If there needs to be a comparison to the previous three chapters, John Wick: Chapter 4 is the perfect crescendo. Each movie rediscovers boundaries in martial arts and pushes limits on fight scene intensity. But what it does best is build a visually stunning world where a private hire-to-kill enterprise exists. Chapter 4 goes not just ten steps forward; it jumps to thirty steps and fires everything it has.
There are these moments in the last two Chapters where ballet is featured in the background. It’s a curious addition to the film, filled with murder and relentless revenge. But the beauty of the ballet plays into the story on multiple levels. First, the dancer’s sheer determination built over years of hard work. Each movement is a carefully considered part of the story being told. John Wick is no different. With his years of training and even more years in practice, his every decision and every move is calculated and considered.
The other side of the ballet is the film’s use of choreography in its fight scenes. As Wick fights his way through the Osaka Continental – it’s ballet. Beautifully choreographed perfection of Wick weaving, swinging and sliding his way to freedom. Sure, it’s no Swan Lake, but it still has beauty.
But what would a ballet be without a set to complement it? The world built around the concept of a hire-to-kill enterprise with hotels worldwide as safety zones is undoubtedly a task in itself. How director Chad Stahelski and production designer Kevin Kavanaugh manage to create two worlds carefully plays perfectly into the entire concept of the film. First, you have John Wick, who, for the most part, is dealing with his own demons. Many of Wick’s scenes are filled with shadows and bleak, dark colours. Funnily enough, many of his scenes are at night or on a dreary rainy day, except for the final scene, which is shot at a beautiful Parisian sunrise.
It’s the other scenes full of colour that look almost like pieces of art. The contrast is used in the first chapter and is consistent throughout the franchise. This helps the audience follow Wick’s emotional state as he doesn’t have much to say. The hotels, for example, are full of colour with a glow of yellow, a somewhat neutral ground.
What’s interesting about colour pallets is the use of blue and red. It’s a theme used throughout all the films, and Chapter 4 is no different. When Wick controls a fight or the situation at hand, there tends to be a wash of blue. You notice this a lot more in the continuous fight scenes. The opposite, where Wick doesn’t have control or is in danger in a scene, the colour pallet is red. One standout use of this is when he is on the train, he is washed in red until it’s time for him to step off and the lights change.
Keanu Reeves is a force in this film. The fight scenes are long, and more often than not, they don’t come with any edits. And from what we know, many of these scenes are Reeves himself. His lines are few, but we aren’t here for the dialogue. When he does deliver, he knows exactly how it’s going to be perceived by the audience and plays into it. His delivery of the word “yeah” is exactly how we imagine Wick would reply, and Reeves knows this and says it to give you a giggle.
For a film filled with symbolism, there are hours upon hours of topics to cover. That’s not to mention all the stylised decisions that have gone into Chapter 4 and the previous chapters. And when you think about how this entire story was about revenge for a grieving man who lost his wife and dog, it’s incredible they have managed to build a world around Wick and create four chapters.
It’s action, crime, and thriller perfection and has redefined this genre, pushing it far beyond any boundaries already set. Keanu Reeves and the entire cast seem to enjoy themselves in John Wick: Chapter 4 and give it everything they have. The result is a visual splendour filled with stunning fight choreography and outstanding design. A classic in its own right that will never age.