JOHN WICK CHAPTER 4. Visceral Violence in a Sublimely Realized Underworld

4K-Review of the latest installment of the action spectacular

Back in 2014, I wandered into a screening at Fantastic Fest with the simple knowledge that it was a revenge movie and that it’s star, Keanu Reeves, would be in attendance. A few hours later, the audience emerged, truly shaken by the combination of “Gun-Fu”, sublime action, and a man’s love for his dog (and wife I suppose). Snap forward a few years and the Wick franchise has both a TV series and spin-off movie in the works, and a fourth installment in the franchise that makes a solid claim to be the best entry yet.

Chapter 4 picks up immediately after the events of Parabellum. John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is “Excommunicado”. No longer privy to the services of, nor welcome at any of the institutions that fall under the High Table, the syndicate of assassins to which Wick has long sought to extricate himself from. Low on friends, resources, and safe harbor, Wick chooses to go on the offensive after his longtime associate Winston (Ian McShane) guides him to a series of arcane laws that permit him to challenge the head of the High Table to a duel, thereby ending the conflict. This Marquis (played to petulant perfection by Bill Skarsgård) looks to solidify his own position by stamping out the sheer insolence of being defied by Wick, and the spark of rebellion he represents, by upping the bounty on his head, and stamping out any who stand to aid him, and defy his organization. Allies emerge, and Wick spearheads an international assault to force the hand of the Marquis, and bring an end to his slaughter.

As someone who was a little lukewarm on Parabellum (aka Chapter 3), this fourth installment is a hard hitting return to form for the franchise. Creator/writer Derek Kolstad stepping aside, leaving Shay Hatten (Parabellum) and Michael Finch (Countdown, Predators) to take over. The underlying plot of revenge within this ceremonial underworld of assassins remains much the same, but the film bristles with creativity, energy, and a witty playfulness. It’s the longest of the films, running close to 3 hours, but it never wastes a minute, delivering relentless action and superb pacing. Hopping around the globe from one spectacular setpiece to another, from the complex (a shootout around the Arc de Triomphe, to a more simple affair seeing Wick ascend a long series of steps in a battle of endurance and misfortune. My personal favorite, an explosive shootout in a dilapidated house that invokes the Hotline Miami videogame. Chad Stahelski stamps his claim as one of the best action filmmakers working today, with his brutal constructs wonderfully wrought by cinematographer Dan Laustsen.

It’s a credit to Keanu Reeves that the films central remit of revenge endures. He perfectly conjures this blend of vulnerability and invulnerability, to endear and engender fear. No longer just sustained by the loss of his wife and the pup she left him, but raging against a system that has turned against Wick for trying to leave them behind. A cool and determined contrast to the flailing impotence of the Maquis, who despite his powerful position, can do nothing against the force of nature that is the Baba Yaga. The film brings back some familiar friends and foes, and does a damn good time of introducing some new mysterious figures,including Shamier Anderson’s Mr. Nobody, Scott Adkins in a fatsuit as German mobster Killa, and Donnie Yen as the film’s MVP, Caine. A retired assassin coerced into returning to work to take out his former friend, who blindness plays into several character quirks, but makes him no less lethal than his adversary. Yen is an exquisite addition, a delivery of “F-you” alone makes for one of the most joyous parts of the entire film. Gravitas and grace are also added in the form of Hiroyuki Sanada as Winston’s Japanese counterpart Shimazu, and Rina Sawayama as his daughter Akira. A frersh infusion of blood, and ideas across the board that combine with Stahelski’s efforts to deliver a muscular flex of filmmaking that shows there is plenty of life in the franchise.

The Package

John Wick Chapter 4 is a densely packed film, hopping around the globe, with settings that range from brooding warehouses, dimly lit nightclubs, hotel lobbies, and art galleries. From cool blues to warm amber hues, the film presents a rich and detailed transfer. Blacks are deep, colors are strongly represented, without any oversaturation, or loss of natural representation. Detail and depth of image standout too. A quality and consistent transfer. The release hosts an array of extra features. While it seems like a rich assortment, the breadth of features is met by its brevity. Most featurettes only running a few minutes. The standout here is the breakdown of the Arc de Triomphe setpiece, and the piece focusing on Donnie Yen’s approach to his character. The film is crying out for a director’s commentary.

  • Chad and Keanu: Through Wick and Thin: Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves have a partnership that stretches all the way back to the first Matrix film. In this retrospective piece, we trace their remarkable friendship and decades-long collaboration.
  • Train Like a Killer: Weapons Master Robert “Rock” Galotti and Keanu Reeves reveal the rigorous training that Keanu had to endure to make John Wick: Chapter 4 a reality – from gunplay, to jiu jitsu, to some hard-hitting stunt work.
  • Making A Killing: In John Wick, sets are not merely the backdrop for each scene – they are integral parts of the action, with Wick often using whatever is on hand to take the fight to his enemies. Here we explore the craft at play in designing the sets of John Wick: Chapter 4 and the ways set design and action choreography go hand in hand in this legendary series.
  • The Psychology of a Killer: Chad Stahelski explores the psychology of John Wick, a character who, despite four films, is still a mystery in many ways. We unpack the complicated code of ethics that Wick lives by, and the ironic bonds he shares with the men trying to kill him.
  • The Blind Leading the Fight: John Wick: Chapter 4 witnesses the arrival of Caine, a blind killer played by legendary actor and martial artist Donnie Yen. With a style not seen since The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, Caine shows that a killer’s greatest instincts come not from his eyes, but from his mind. Here we uncover Yen’s journey on this film, exploring his prep for the role, his insight into the character, and his intense training regimen to portray this unlikely killer.
  • Suit Up / Shoot Up: Costume Designer Paco Delgado uncovers the cooler-than-cool suits worn by the assassins of John Wick that feature bulletproof lining – just what every killer needs for a night out on the town. We also explore the more refined looks of the Marquis and the Old West-inspired garb of the Tracker.
  • Packing a Punch: Pulling off a kill takes a village. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the way Team Wick incorporates special effects into the practical stunts and locations of the film.
  • One Killer Shot: John Wick: Chapter 4 features one of the boldest single-take shots ever attempted in action filmmaking. Fight Choreographers Jeremy Marinas and Laurent Demianoff team up with Stunt Coordinator Scott Rogers to dive into the creative challenges that went into planning this one-shot sequence that sees John Wick take on Paris’s deadliest killers.
  • Killing at the Speed of Traffic: Take a look at a nonstop action sequence featuring John Wick’s car-fu at the Arc de Triomphe! The driving force of this piece will be a look at the effects achieved at the iconic location, and sets the stakes of every assassin in Paris descending on Wick.
  • A Shot in the Dark: The John Wick series takes audiences into a world that is both thematically and visually dark. For film crews, that meant enduring hundreds of night shoots, with crews switching to a virtually nocturnal mode of life for long stretches of production. Here we explore the tenacious work of cast and crew members who tough it out night after night in pursuit of Wick’s dark, iconic aesthetic. Along the way, we explore some of the most iconic night scenes in the film, culminating with Wick’s brutal staircase fight.
  • In Honor of the Dead: In creating John Wick: Chapter 4, Chad Stahelski drew on references from some of the greatest films ever made. Uncover the cinematic homages depicted in the film, from David Lean to John Woo, to the samurai epics of post-war Japan.
  • Theatrical Trailer 1
  • Theatrical Trailer 2  
  • 4K-UHD also includes the film on Blu-ray, along with a digital download code

The Bottom Line

John Wick Chapter 4 builds on it’s predecessors to deliver more of what you expect, but continues the franchises success in building out this underworld of assassins, while crafting creative, thrilling actions sequences. Stahelski and Reeves continue to cement the legacy of Wick, and set a standard for the modern age American action flick.

John Wick Chapter 4 hits home video on June 13

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