Rarely exists a franchise nowadays that produces continuously good content worth the increasingly outrageous prices of movie tickets and theater food. John Wick, practically one of Lionsgate's only standout properties; has fulfilled this niche without doubt. An escalator of action films, each with grander setpieces, excellent action sequences, and greater stakes than the last, with JW4 being the narrative culmination of the trilogy preceding it. John Wick Four goes bigger and badder with every scene, everything from John engaging in a shootout against armored High Table soldiers to battling practically the entire population of Paris, France; to running into old comrades and new enemies alike as the story intersects together and weaves a fitting conclusion for one of cinema's greatest contemporary action heroes. Let's dive into what exactly makes John Wick Four so special.
Firstly, the crowning jewel of the John Wick franchise is the high-octane action that bears a few shreds of realism. In the real world; I doubt we'll see any secret agent types carve their way through rooms of mafia goons- but it's still incredible how the movie pays a deep attention to detail with everything from ammunition continuity in regards to how much John has left, to where certain goons are placed and whether or not they're actually dead yet, to a semi-realistic usage of cover as even the low-level minions hold a sense of self-preservation. Movement is fluid and rarely does the camera stop during these monumental action scenes save to focus on certain aspects. This movie certainly holds the greatest tier of on-screen slaughter of all the franchise. In specific, there's one extended cut where John fights through a dilapidated hotel or building (I couldn't really tell) against an army of assassins, and the shot leers up to an overhead viewing that resembled an aged sidescrolling videogame. From this overhead view we view John clearing rooms full of enemies with explosive ammo from his shotgun, setting mercenaries ablaze as the techno music from the first movie bursts forth in a glorious menagerie of carnage. It's truly spectacle and cinematographic greatness melded forth into one product, and boy is it a sight to behold.
Of course, the John Wick movies understand that while their primary selling point is the spectacle and bloodshed- there's still a story needing to be told. We leave off with three, where John is supposedly betrayed by Winston (though in a coordinated fashion to ensure his survival) for the High Table. Four leaves us mostly where we left off, probably a few weeks or months after the fact, movie never really specifies. John murders the Elder (the supposed mastermind behind the High Table), setting off the inciting chain events. As vengeance for this loss, the High Table appoints a Marquis, essentially an inquisitor of some manner with the full resources of the organization at his disposal; to hunt down John as retribution for his many offenses against their empire. He first begins by murdering beloved fan-favorite character Charon (played by the late Lance Reddick, a superb actor and brilliant man who deserves full respects, rest his soul), before wiping out the New York Continental and going on an international rampage searching for Wick. Throughout the movie, we see John pull on his final connections and desperately travelling the world, seeking a means to rectify his situation by engaging the Marquis in a High Table Duel that may earn him his freedom, encountering new and old friends and enemies along the way.
Personally, I found the story and acting to reach its height with this movie. My only complaint is that Donnie Yen's character Caine, who is introduced and made to seem an old ally of John's, has only just arrived in the tail-end of this universe's story when he plays such a crucial role. It's merely a nitpick obviously, and Caine's role in the film is played excellently as his history with John is vague enough to perhaps form spinoffs and sequels, but still eschewed to ensure audiences understand they boast a complex and complicated past. John's motivations are deeply explored as we come to realize that for all his furious rage and blood spilt, the character really has nothing left to live for. His wife and dog are dead, and Wick doesn't exactly strike me as the type of man to so easily build up relationships. Even should he become free of the High Table, he'd likely just fall back into the same world of death and destruction once more. Yet still.. I found it rather tragic and perhaps wasteful when they ended it with John's death. Perhaps it was a long time coming, and maybe he's somehow still alive according to internet crackpot theorists who are obviously the greatest bastions of reason during our age, but it's safe to say for now Wick is sadly beyond this world. Whilst he'd probably earned his rest, I feel such a character arc deserved to be lived out fully. Charon, Winston, The Bowery King, Tracker (another new mercenary that ultimately becomes a friend of John's), all the collective villains and organizations of this world still hold such great potential, whether posthumously in the future or within spinoff or prequel settings. There's an entire history of John Wick left to discover, his time becoming the Baba Yaga remains wholly a mystery.
Ultimately though; I cannot complain. This movie fulfilled its requirement of entertaining the audience to a tee. With a few moments of comedy sprinkled into an otherwise eye-popping shoot 'em up, John Wick Four is the brilliant, blood-spilling, man-exploding, skin-burning, mercenary-murdering climatic conclusion such a franchise deserves. Keanu Reeves, Lawrence Fishburne, Donnie Yen, Ian McShane, all the supporting cast, crew, and everyone who worked on this movie deserves nothing but our wholehearted support to continue making stellar products like this. In a day and age where it seems movies are either commercialized garbage or meaningless avant-garde nonsense, John Wick is a consistent breathe of simplistic, fresh air. If you're going to watch a movie this spring season in theaters, make it this one. More reviews coming soon, God bless you all!