By Isaac Woolley, Public Policy Msc
The John Wick films have forged a well-deserved reputation since 2014. Starting out as a straight-up revenge outing, assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) spends his first film (2014) getting revenge on a gang for killing his dog. That film established its own criminal underworld, which has since been built on to rope John Wick back in for more bloodshed, in Chapter 2 (2017), Chapter 3 (2019), and now, Chapter 4.
The thinness of the premise has thus far been excused thanks to the quality of the series’ action scenes and their unrepentant revolt against the Hollywood shaky cam, instead opting for well-shot intricately choreographed fight scenes à la Jackie Chan.
If I were to set out the numerous holes in Chapter 4’s plot, the natural response would be that I don’t understand the appeal of the franchise and that I’m taking it all too seriously. But I would only be taking this film as seriously as it wants the audience to take it.
Chapter 4 continually subjects us to agonizingly overbearing dialogue scenes, primarily between The Manager (Ian McShane) and The Marquis (Bill Skarsgard), who spend an unforgivable amount of screentime discussing the enormity of the machinations underway in the criminal underworld, which now entirely revolve around John Wick.
After four films this fictional criminal world has begun to wear thin, now mostly characterized by its procession of characters with pretentious titles: the Marquis, the Manager, the Elder, the Director. When John Wick 14: Parallel Parking (2040) hits, will an aged Keanu attempt to re-take his driving test in front of ‘the Instructor’?
At this rate, yes. Because by and large, John Wick: Chapter 4 fails to ‘up the ante’ on its predecessors’ action sequences. While it features plenty of impressive stunt work and fight choreography, it mostly re-treads familiar ground: an indestructible John Wick continuously shoots, stabs and shoulder-throws his way through an endless supply of goons.
By the end, when our visibly weary protagonist is confronted with yet another cohort of insignificant henchmen, it’s hard not to feel just as exhausted as he is.
Chapter 4 does boast at least one unrivalled sequence, a shoot-out inside a building which is shot entirely top-down, reminiscent of the video game Hotline Miami. However, such moments are the exception.
Above all else, John Wick: Chapter 4 forgets to execute itself with much joy. When German mobster Killa (Scott Adkins) shows up in a fat suit 2 hours in, he provides a semblance of the tongue-in-cheek tone that these films should glory in more often.
He almost breaks the fourth wall, mocking the main characters’ overly complex plot entanglements in a cartoonish accent, punctuated by booming laughter. It’s a refreshing change from the portentous expositions of The Marquis (Bill Skarsgard).
The John Wick films should apply the gonzo direction of their action scenes to their dialogue more often, and please, a shorter runtime next time.
Featured Image: Murray Close, courtesy of Lionsgate and IMDB
What did you think of the latest installation of the John Wick series?