‘John Wick: Chapter 4’: bigger does mean better


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Ashleigh O'Gradney, Contributor

It has been nearly a decade since John Wick set out to avenge his dead puppy and stolen car in the first “John Wick” film. Now, in “John Wick: Chapter 4,” he takes on the most powerful members of the High Table in a 169-minute installment with a bulkier cast, powerful action sequences and just as much relentlessness as ever. 

Released on March 24, 2023, “John Wick: Chapter 4” dominated the box office, making $73.5 million dollars in its opening weekend and bypassing the previous three chapters of the franchise by a fair amount. “Chapter 4” also received the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating, compared to the previous chapters, at 95 percent. 

The film holds a much bigger cast than what audiences are used to in this franchise. Keanu Reeves reprises his role as the short-spoken lone assassin John Wick, along with Laurence Fishburne and Ian McShane as the Bowery King and Winston, respectively. Together, they share the common goal of taking down the High Table in response to the profoundly high bounty on Wick’s head, which continues to increase throughout the film.

Also added to the mix is Charon, played by the late Lance Reddick, Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada), the manager of the Osaka Continental Hotel and his daughter and concierge, Akira (Rina Sawayama). Then, there is the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), who is on a mission to destroy any idea of John Wick, Caine (Donnie Yen), a blind, old friend of Wick’s who is ordered by Gramont to kill him in order to save his daughter and Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson), a tracker who lies in wait to kill Wick until the price is right. 

Wick’s world has always had a very fantastical element to it. It’s true that Wick operates in a world that mirrors ours, but he is always drawn in a way that creates a stark separation between him and the rest of society. During two of the biggest action sequences in “Chapter 4,” the first in a Berlin nightclub and the second on the streets below the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, anyone that isn’t Wick, or a man intent on killing him, is seemingly uninterrupted. Aside from the occasional glance by club-goers or an appropriate honk of a car, the audience is focused on the fight. Too often are action sequences saturated by screaming witnesses or ambulance sirens that pull viewers away from the world of the characters.

The action sequences in this film are arguably some of the best in the franchise. The use of reflective surfaces, breaking glass and colorful light dynamics keep the action striking and chaotic, yet beautiful and engaging. The card game sequence between Caine, Wick, Mr. Nobody and Killa (another new character) adds a new kind of tension to the plot. Unfortunately, given how long the film is, some of the action falls short in its enjoyment, inevitably getting boring and repetitive. When approaching the Sacré-Cœur, Wick climbs all 220 steps while fighting off numerous men, but once he reaches the top, he gets knocked down by one of Gramont’s head henchmen, having to repeat the sequence again, to a humorous or tiresome effect, depending on the viewer.

While the runtime of “Chapter 4” was at times bothersome, it was structured rather well. New characters were introduced, and introduced properly, being given a backstory, motivations and unique fighting abilities. Akira and Koji were some of the best new characters in the film, as they embodied a beautiful familial love that audiences don’t see much of in the “John Wick” franchise. Winston also has a much more prominent role, acting as more of a father and mentor to Wick than previously written. 

“Chapter 4” did a superb job at honoring all that made the first three chapters enjoyable, but it lost its footing in the dialogue. One thing that makes the franchise so loved by audiences is how action-driven it is. There is substantially more dialogue in this fourth film and Wick sometimes spends too much time having heart-to-heart conversations with others. The Continental has always been characterized by gold coins, mutual markers and remarkably strict rules, but “Chapter 4” had no markers, showed the use of just one coin and mentioned the rules only a small handful of times. 

The “John Wick” franchise has always been characterized by the fear of an unknown authority. Every character that the audience has met has been “below the table.” Even the Marquis de Gramont, who acts with superiority and power, falls under the complexity of the High Table. Wondering who is actually at or above the table leaves a chilling uneasiness that allows the audience to connect with Wick and the people he meets. 

After four movies, audiences are surely asking the same question that several characters ask Wick in “Chapter 4”: when will it end? In the modern age of film, there is always a possibility for another sequel. Unlike the previous chapters, this film does have a post-credits scene and the spinoff starring Ana de Armas titled “Ballerina” has already been filmed. So, although nothing has been officially announced or teased, we may just be seeing this franchise grace the screens of our theaters again one day.