John Wick: Chapter 4 review (2023)

John Wick: Chapter 4 has phenomenal action sequences and some beautiful cinematography, even if it’s overwhelmingly over-the-top and a bit unrealistic at times. However, the flashiness doesn’t always save it from the lackluster plot and shallow, unmemorable characters.

One thing can’t be denied: The John Wick series, when it comes to action, does it better than most movies with its fight choreography and the camera angles. I was a big fan of the first movie primarily because it was unique, there wasn’t much like it at the time, and the subsequent sequels did more of the same, but I can’t say I’m a massive fan of the franchise like most people are. This doesn’t mean I won’t watch every new film, because I still enjoy them for what they are, but I can’t say I hold them in high regard. After watching John Wick: Chapter 4, I honestly feel the same way.

Chapter 4 starts off guns blazing from the very start and it rarely ever slows down. It’s definitely one of those movies where you come in to shut off your brain and bask in the insanity that’s happening on the screen. Once again, there’s nothing wrong with these kinds of movies, and I fully realize it may just be me and my picky thoughts. But, I’ve grown to appreciate action films that not only excel with its action, but also includes a coherent and engaging story I care about. So, even though I enjoy these John Wick films, I tend still to be critical of the obvious flaws. I think Chapter 4 is the perfect example of everything right with these movies, but also everything that’s wrong.

The right is the obvious; the action, the set pieces, the choreography, and the world-building. It’s hard not to enjoy what you’re watching. It’s incredibly impressive seeing these performers do the moves and stunts and make it seem somewhat believable. In actuality, it’s also a bit bizarre to me how director Chad Stahelski and the rest of the team involved have continuously and consistently done this sort of things for four movies now and each time, there’s new elements and moves being incorporated. These movies are always evolving in order to up the ante when it comes to the action, and it’s an element of filmmaking I’ll always respect. I absolutely adored some of the shots as well. There’s a specific scene where John Wick is in a room and it’s all from an overhead perspective. It’s probably the one sequence I enjoyed watching the most and it’s, by far, my favorite of the film.

As for the characters, I can’t say I enjoyed every single one, but the one element this series tends to harp on is the world-building, and it does this by introducing new characters with every new installment. One character in particular that’s a definite crowd pleaser is Donnie Yen’s Caine. I’m not sure what it is, but Yen tends to excel in portraying blind characters. He did it in Rogue One as Chirrut Imwe, and now as Caine. He makes every single fighting move and stunt look effortless and he has this swagger about him not many can emulate or project quite like he can. He’s undoubtedly a worthy addition to this universe full of strange and interesting characters and further elevates Keanu Reeves Wick in almost every scene they share together. As for all of the other newcomers, I didn’t really care much for them. Bill Skarsgard has his moments as Marquis, as does Clancy Brown as the Harbinger, and just about every other returning character. This is, at least for myself, where the problems lie though, and that’s the narrative and characters.

The John Wick series knows its target audience and it doesn’t seem to want to deviate from that. With every new movie, the action is bigger and better, and the set pieces are far more realized, but what doesn’t seem to evolve or elevate is the story or the characters. It never really changes and focuses on the same thing in every movie. There’s nothing about the narrative in Chapter 4 that really helps set itself apart from the previous films. The first film is mostly a revenge story for Wick, while Chapter 2 follows a reluctant Wick being forced back into a lifestyle he wants to leave behind. As for Chapter 3 and 4, there’s a bad guy who wants Wick dead, and seemingly everyone in the world is eager to make that happen in order to get a big payday. It’s no secret the plots for these films are, by far, the weakest elements in all of these movies. Then again, not everyone is going to see these movies for the story, rather to enjoy the entertainment of all the hand-to-hand combat, the throws, the guns, and the variety of different weapons. It isn’t like the characters are all very memorable either. Sure, you’ll like some of them, but at the same time, all of them feel a bit dispensable and poorly developed. Other than the different fighting styles and how they look, there’s nothing about these characters that make them feel important aside from their connection to Wick. I’m used to watching phenomenal action films with great stories, and there are many examples to show it’s possible. Some of my favorites include The Matrix, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Mission: Impossible – Fallout. As mentioned, these movies may not be going for that, but there’s so much potential for engaging stories with the world this series has crafted through four films. Again, I could just be annoyingly nitpicky, but that’s where I’m at with these movies. I can’t really take the writing seriously either. The dialogue is downright cringe-worthy at times, and the one-liners are incredibly predictable. I wish it the films would take it all a bit more seriously.

As impressive and entertaining as the action, even some of it feels a bit drawn out and overwhelmingly over-the-top. Honestly, Wick could’ve just shot them in the head from the very beginning. He doesn’t have to flip somebody 4 or 5 times just to shoot them in the head anyway. It’s starting to lose a sense of realism, and I know it’s a movie, but none of these expert killers and assassins are superhuman or possess supernatural abilities. So many scenes and action sequences were overly long and borderline ridiculous at times. There’s a specific scene where Wick is falling down a huge set of stairs and at one point, I wanted it to end because of how forced and fake it looked. Then, after all of that, he gets up anyway as if nothing happened. I appreciate the action and how cool everything looks, but it’s starting to become less and less believable. I think the first two movies really did a great job at balancing the action and the craziness with realism and the last two have really started to stray away from it.

Chapter 4 may be a fitting end for John Wick, but if I had to bet on it, with the amount of money it has made, I’m sure a fifth one will be greenlit sooner rather than later. Plus, there are already some spinoffs in development anyway. I’m sure whatever comes next, the spectacle will still be front and center, and I’ll still watch it because it is impressive and entertaining. Deep down however, I wish it all felt a bit deeper and personal. I want to feel for these characters and be thrilled by the story, not just the action and all the fighting that’s already in it. John Wick: Chapter 4 is still a fun time, and all the action is the only thing saving it since it has very little to offer outside of what’s already expected of it.

Score: 7.5/10


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