John Wick: Chapter 4

After Winston (Ian McShane) witnesses the demolition of his beloved Continental Hotel followed by a shocking assassination, retribution for having harbored the excommunicado John Wick (Keanu Reeves), Wick learns of a path to defeat the High Table and gain his freedom by challenging the man who did it, the Marquis (Bill Skarsgård), to a duel to the death in “John Wick: Chapter 4.”

Laura's Review: B+

This.  This is the climax fans of this series have been waiting for, almost three hours of John Wick traversing the globe from the grimy green of the New York City subway to the rich golds of the Wadi Rum Desert to the neon cherry blossom streets of Osaka and decadent dance clubs of Berlin all while fighting off assassins, their eyes fixed on the escalating bounty on his head.  “Parabellum’s” bland Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) has been replaced by the much more flavorful Marquis, Skarsgård’s monetary menace just itching to be tested by Wick’s favored mano a mano.  "John Wick 3's" Shay Hatten and "Predators'" Michael Finch have written a finale that honors the bonds of friendship and love, concocting an inventive new avenue for the series’ canine component while series director Chad Stahelski, the former stuntman (who now has eleven(!) new features in development), choreographing one jaw-dropping series of stunts after another.  Reeves, now one year shy of sixty, continues to amaze with his balletic moves and sheer endurance, editor Nathan Orloff sustaining action sequences for their full effect.  He and Stahelski have dedicated the film to Lance Reddick, the actor who played Winston’s right hand man, the Continental’s charismatic concierge Charon, who passed away on March 17.

When the first sequel came out, I compared the series to a video game where John Wick kept advancing to different levels as his circumstances continued to evolve.  That still holds true, production designer Kevin Kavanaugh and cinematographer Dan Lausten showcasing Wick as he fights his way through various new spaces, a Parisian address shown from overhead, its floor plan a booby trapped maze John must maneuver, just as his last obstacle, Paris’s Rue Foyatier, literally involves 222 steps, steps which Wick ascends only to be kicked back down again.  But this is no shallow game, instead a challenging quest peopled with friend and foe and sometimes both along the way.

In Osaka, a true friend, Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada, "The Twilight Samurai"), is willing to offer Wick asylum in his hotel despite his manager – and daughter – Akira’s (Japanese-British pop star Rina Sawayama) strenuous objections.  The High Table’s assassins arrive, the hotel evacuated and a battle royale takes place, one in which Wick learns his old friend Caine (Donnie Yen, "Ip Man"), a blind man seeming more lethally accurate because of his handicap, is now in their employ.  At one point, when the bodies have piled up and the action abated, Wick will have a clear shot on the unsuspecting Caine, but he doesn’t take it.  The consideration will be repaid later with the intervention of Tracker’s (Shamier Anderson, "Race," "Bruiser") four-legged attacker returning a favor.

In order to challenge the Marquis, Wick must be part of a High Table family and so he pays a visit to Katia ("Harry Potter's" Nymphadora Tonks, Natalia Tena) for a painful reinstatement, one which leads him to the human, gold-grilled slab called Killa (Scott Adkins) in Berlin as payment (he’s led by one of Katia’s goons announcing all along the way ‘I am Klaus!’ Wick’s appropriation of Groot).   After an almost literal dance of death, the path is cleared for challenging a duel,  Harbinger (Clancy Brown, done up like Fernando Rey in "The French Connection") negotiating the terms in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.  The Marquis isn’t one for taking his own chances, so not only does he tap Caine as his stand-in but he does everything to ensure that Wick won’t arrive at Sacre Coeur by dawn, an overnight interlude with High Table operators and an overnight DJ reminiscent of “The Warriors.”

In addition to incredible action, “John Wick: Chapter 4” is also mournful and moving, Winston consumed with arriving at the right epitaph for friends’ headstones.  It seems Wick is met at every turn with someone who has died because of him, yet he retains the loyalty of diehard friends, folks like the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), and, indeed, even Caine.  With “John Wick: Chapter 4” the grieving assassin finally attains his freedom, the filmmakers paying their respects every step along the way.

Lionsgate opens "John Wick: Chapter 4" in theaters on 3/24/23.