John Wick 4: Chapter 4 (2023) thoughts

Not the official poster.

Rated: 3 / 5

Antiwhite level: 2 / 5

So I’ve reviewed the second and third films in this franchise, both of which I enjoyed (as well as the first film). But I was worried that the franchise was going to suffer some serious fatigue after the previous one. The 2nd film did the “shoot-em-up” aspect to death. The 3rd film realized this and so incorporated a lot more martial arts into the mixture, which laid my worries to rest for that viewing. This one though, I figured the only way they could possibly raise the stakes and keep the franchise fresh was to have more environmental hazards incorporated. Like fighting on top of a bus, or in some machine shop, an armory, a sex toy shop, a kitchen, etc. You know, utilizing the environment more to their advantage against each other. The 3rd film kinda did that in this sequence involving horses.

Well… the film didn’t exactly do that, at least no more heavily than in the prior films. That being said, this film did manage to do something I didn’t think was possible. It has cinematography and lighting visuals and set design that tops the 2nd film. The third film tried to do that, and got close, but the fourth one is on another level. At least that’s the case for the first three quarters of the runtime. Once it gets to the last act, then things start to get too artificial-looking and CG-reliant. But for those first 2 hours, it’s fucking gorgeous.

Cinematography, lighting, colors, and sets aside, this is the John Wick film that finally suffers from franchise fatigue. It could only do the gun-judo-fu shtick for so long before it got stale, and I’m impressed they kept it fresh for three movies. This film though, it’s “been here, done that,” for most of the runtime. As impressive as the action scenes are, they’re monotonous at this point in the context of prior John Wick films. More fighting at some dance-club with a lot of neon lights. More car stunts (and getting hit by cars) ala the 2nd film. More dog attacking people action, ala the 3rd film. Another black sidekick/rival whose just a mashup of Common and Halley Berry in terms of character, skin color (darker than both), dog owning, and combined weight; but with more guns and heavier firepower to go along with his extra lard. Another white villain (more than one actually), which is a pity because I was kinda hoping there would be something to that Middle Eastern guy from the last film (I thought he may have been the head of the whole assassin syndicate, or at the very least one of the top tier members of the High Table). More stairs to fall down (they had to outdo that sequence from the 2nd film). The majority of this film is stuff that we’ve all seen before, except more of it; which apparently the filmmakers thought was a good idea when the prior films already gave us enough of it.

For a brief amount of time, it seemed like this movie was going to go in a direction that would’ve been fresh in terms of pacing and perspective. The first half has a great emphasis on showcasing everyone but John Wick, and how their livelihoods are becoming affected because of John Wick’s actions and the High Table’s outrage. This is a great way to show that the world is bigger than John Wick, that there are other forces and factors greater than him (in terms of power and position, and numbers), and see how Wick’s actions are causing shockwaves to reverberate all through it. Which would help raise the stakes and make things feel more epic as it would build up to a confrontation that could change the face of this international organization. The film never really goes that far with that ambition, but it does settle for something else. How Wick’s actions are affecting anyone and everyone who has sympathy for him and would normally be on his side. That the High Table sees to it that they all suffer for Wick’s actions. How Wick’s trail of vengeance and violence is causing those who are his friends to suffer. Serious consequences to make him wonder if it’s all worth it. Though the end of the third film hints at the idea that there are those who are sick of the High Table’s shenanigans, and wants to see them reformed or destroyed (at the very least greatly harmed). But the film doesn’t carry through with that, and rather takes the position that there’s nothing you can do against the High Table in the end. It’s every man for himself. That just doesn’t seem right to me; kinda walks back what they were leading to in the prior movie.

Not to mention that, in spite of the bigger stakes and an even larger bounty on John Wick’s head, the people who actually went after Wick in-person were just dime-a-dozen goons with nothing distinct about them. Aside from these samurai/ninja guys early on (it’s pretty fucking ridiculous to see people with bows going up against people with guns, even if they make it look cool), and aside from the fact that virtually everyone is wearing that suit armor introduced in the 2nd film (it’s not just Wick who is wearing it now; EVERYONE is wearing it), there are only really 2 guys consistently on Wick’s tail for most of the runtime. Donnie Yen’s character, who is reprising his role from Rogue One and playing a blind guy again. And that lardass Tracker (aka Nobody) played by Shamier Anderson. The only other significant character injected into this to give Wick an interesting opponent is Scott Adkins in a fat suit with gold teeth, and that’s only because Wick came after him directly (he wasn’t going after Wick at all until that point). The 2nd film showcased the greatest diversity of skilled assassins who went after Wick for a bounty price far less than what was offered in this movie, plus Common’s character. The third film had an amusing array of Asian gangsters, and that one giant at the beginning. This film, it just felt disingenuous with the amount of bodies thrown at Wick. Like it wanted to go for quantity over quality, when it should’ve been the other way around. We should’ve seen more assassins who had skills on-par with Wick at this point, and not some lardass Tracker who apparently isn’t satisfied with the extreme bounty level put on Wick’s head (which is ridiculous, in spite of the comparisons to other numbers the film pulls out of its ass for a brief moment). That’s a shitload of potential the film threw out the window. It needed more than a blind man and a tracker going after Wick.

Oh, and there’s also this moment where the film pays tribute to The Warriors. It’s more of an eye-roll moment than an amusing one, as opposed to that Good, Bad, Ugly moment from the third film.

However, there are a couple moments that brought some much needed fresh air to this film. For one, Keanu Reeves gets to use nun-chucks at one point, which was great. Then there’s this one long-take sequence (which I’m thinking they used some fancy editing tricks to make it seem like it’s a long take when it really isn’t) near the finale when Wick gets a hold of a gun that fires incendiary rounds. Those two action sequences are the only ones that stood out for me in the entire movie. And I feel bad saying that considering how much effort went into doing several others. But again, it’s “been here, done that” for those “several others.” Although the Scott Adkins fight was a bit amusing. Wick fighting a fat guy, made me wish we got something more akin to that in place of that last fight we got in the first film.

So overall, this film disappointed me. It’s not as entertaining as I hoped it would be simply because it falls beneath the weight of the franchise it built up. The prior films set the bar too high for this one to raise any further. With a “final fight” that’s as “meh” as the final fight from the first film. Even so, it’s still a solid enough action flick, with plenty of solid sequences to quench anyone’s thirst for action movies. Just don’t go watching this immediately after going through the prior entries. If nothing else, I’m glad they finally ended the franchise with this entry. It could’ve been better, but they also could’ve milked this dying cow even longer, like Disney is doing with their dead cattle franchise(s).

Skeptical recommendation.

PS: Oh, and if you thought it was far-fetched for Wick to survive that fall at the end of the 3rd film, you haven’t seen anything yet.

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