Movie Review: ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’

Plot: It’s been several months since John Wick (Keanu Reeves) was unceremoniously shot by Winston (Ian McShane) and left for dead. Hiding underground with the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), John recovers from his injuries and plots his revenge. After senior High Table member the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard) decommissions the NYC Continental due to Winston’s inability to kill John Wick, Winston offers John a way out—challenge the Marquis to a duel. If Johns succeeds, he wins his freedom and any obligations to the High Table. But getting to the duel destination on time proves to be no easy feat as everyone, including John’s old friend Caine (Donnie Yen), desires to take down the Baba Yaga for good.   

Review: John Wick: Chapter 4 is the coolest movie I’ve ever seen.

I’m quite tempted to just end my review right there as any descriptions or insights I might offer would pale in comparison to the film itself. It’s like trying to attack John Wick with a paring knife—I’m bound to come up short.

To put it plainly, I’m in awe of this movie. In awe that four films in, Chad Stahelski and company can keep topping themselves from what’s come before. In awe at how breathtakingly beautiful this film is. In awe that the fourth iteration in the franchise once again manages to introduce new and interesting characters that we care about. In awe at the sound design. In awe at the editing. In awe at the emotional heft of this movie. In awe that in an era of tentpole releases that seem hellbent on providing the most formulaic films possible, designed to appeal to the most people and garner the most money, something this unique exists.


Obviously, audiences go to a John Wick film for the action. They want to see the Baba Yaga winding his way through a myriad of opponents breaking bones and dispensing headshots. Yet as relentless as the action is, it is never formulaic or boring. Whether it’s Donnie Yen’s Caine mowing down baddies with a sword, Wick drenched in water at a nightclub going toe to toe with the despicable Killa Harkan (a delightful turn by Scott Adkins), or a car-fu (yes car-fu) scene in Paris that makes Frogger look like thumb wrestling, John Wick: Chapter 4 delivers, and does so in a way you’ve never seen before. It completely earns its 169-minute runtime. Oh, and that staircase scene you’ve heard so much about? Yeah, it’s the real deal and then some. A truly scintillating moment this side of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker dancing his way down the stairs. This movie proves, for the 6,993,433 time why there needs to be a stunt choreography category at the Oscars. Anyone who thinks stunts aren’t fundamental to a film can fire that tired-ass take directly into the sun.

Chad Stahelski’s direction is flawless here. There’s a tendency to poo poo the action genre as if it is a lesser former of art. Utter lunacy. The action in this film tells the story itself. It is the action film version of The Marriage of Figaro. There is an operatic quality to the film that draws you in. It’s like one continuous aria you don’t want to stop. With scenes set in NYC, Japan, Paris, Germany, and the Middle East, John Wick: Chapter 4 comes off as a globe-trotting adventure that’s the action equivalent of Raiders of the Lost Ark. At this point Stahelski needs to be in the same breath as George Miller, John Woo, and John McTiernan as one of the greatest action directors of all time.

What sets John Wick: Chapter 4 apart from the previous films, is Stahelski’s willingness to let the film breathe occasionally and lean into some more dramatic moments. Indeed, there are some truly emotional, almost tear-inducing moments in this film. An early scene between Winston and Charon (the late Lance Reddick) is particularly devastating and a discussion between John and his friend Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada) about what constitutes a good life was beautifully poignant. Hell, John telling Winston what he wants on his tombstone in the event of his death almost had me tearing up. Credit writers Shay Hatten and Michael Finch with the ability to inject some emotional resonance that 100% works in a John Wick film. Simply incredible.

From a technical standpoint, this film is flawless. As I mentioned it is a true globe-trotting adventure and cinematographer Dan Lausten wields the camera the same way John Wick wields a handgun; with precision and excellence. Every shot, every vista, every moment captivates. I don’t foresee any scenario where John Wick: Chapter 4 is not one of the best shot films of 2023 when time expires this December 31st. There’s a scene just before the stair section involving John cutting his way through baddies where the camera tracks John from above in one continuous shot. It had my jaw on the floor. The sound design is also the best I’ve heard in years from the opening thunderous punch by John into a wood plank. And the editing. MY GOD the editing. Nathan Orloff is a goddamn wizard. Just give him the Oscar now. This is all just a roundabout way of saying this movie deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible with the best sound system possible. You owe it to yourself.

What’s astounding to me is how four films in Stahelski and crew are able to introduce new and intriguing characters and make us love or hate them deeply. Scott Adkins’ Killa is vile but somehow captivating and hilarious. Koji feels like the benevolent and empathetic uncle we never had. Shamier Anderson’s Mr.Nobody/The Tracker is the sleek, cool, artistic friend we wish we had in high school. (Incidentally, he’s the one that brings the A+ dog game in this chapter.) And Akira (Rina Sawayama), Koji’s daughter? She is a Badass with a capital “B.” I want a spinoff with her character yesterday.

Without question, the two newbies that knock the ball into another zip code are Bill Skarsgard and Donnie Yen. Skarsgard absolutely Big League chews the scenery from start to finish. The clipped French accent, the impeccable clothes, the slight hunch to his six-foot five-inch frame that adds a layer of menace, the pregnant pauses that add nuance to his character—he is a dude you absolutely love to hate. He’s like that wealthy douchebag from high school who always treated everyone with disdain except much more rich and powerful. While I want Skarsgard to have a diverse and long acting career, I would be perfectly content if he played bad guys for the rest of his life if the result is a performance like this.

But Donnie Yen man? What a performance. In many ways, his blind warrior Caine is a mirror image of John. His daughter is his lifeline and his curse as her very existence holds him hostage to the High Table. Caine is reluctant to go against one of his oldest friends. Their fights are epic. In fact, he’s the first character in the franchise I felt was John’s equal from a fighting standpoint. Where their relationship ultimately ends up had me smiling from ear to ear. Also, Caine just oozes cool. Even the way he eats Pho while waiting to wipe the floor with fools was mesmerizing.

And then there’s Keanu Reeves.

I mean, what can you say at this point? He’s a force of nature. John Wick is easily one of the most memorable characters in the history of cinema. Reeves allows the gun-fu, car-fu, and kill shots to do the acting for him. I don’t even know if he has twenty lines in this entire movie. But the Steve McQueen factor is at play here. Wick and by extension Reeves doesn’t talk a lot because he doesn’t have to. Everything is conveyed through gestures and facial expressions. My one beef with this entire movie is that the way Reeves delivers the limited lines he does have often feels stiff and awkward. But then again the way he says “consequences” in this film carries the weight of a thousand suns so what the Hell do I know?

If you’re a fan of the genre you will absolutely love this movie. Next to Die Hard and Mad Max: Fury Road it is the best action film of all time in this humble critic’s opinion. Even if you’re not a fan of the genre I advise checking it out because from a cinematic and objective filmmaking perspective, it is a sight to behold. This isn’t just a masterpiece for an action film.

It’s a masterpiece. Period.

My rating system:

God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad

2 Straight Garbage

3 Bad

4 Sub Par

5 Average

6 Ok

7 Good

8 Very Good

9 Great

10 A Must See

John Wick: Chapter 4: 10/10