JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 Review – pure adrenaline actioner that’s wickedly Reeve-ting


It’s been four years since Chapter 3, aka Parabellum so I had to brush up a bit on the JW ‘mythology’ as it were, which gets more complex with each movie. Apparently this franchise wasn’t always this complicated. Per this Thrillist article, director Chad Stahelski, a veteran stuntman who used to double for Keanu Reeves, revealed that the original script wasn’t so high concept. There were no secret organizations or special financial systems, just plain old rich people doing bad things. But the plot ends up being steeped in ancient mythology with some Russian culture mixed in, hence Wick’s nickname is Baba Yaga aka boogeyman.

It’s a fitting nickname as John is not unlike a mythical creature, a seemingly calm but ferociously deadly man who’s practically un-killable. Yes he wears kevlar-lined, bulletproof suits, as he often shields his head under his jacket during shootouts. He’s also [mostly] impervious to getting hurt even when hit by a car multiple times or falling a few stories down. At the end of Chapter 3, we saw John fall from The Continental rooftop after being shot by his ‘supposed’ ally Winston (Ian McShane). But of course, John is far from being dead, and Chapter 4’s opening sequence shows him looking sprightly in the Moroccan desert as he chases three guys on horseback before he stands in front of the Elder, the only person who’s actually above the High Table.


At this point, John is still considered ‘excommunicado,’ blacklisted by the High Table after he broke the cardinal rule of unauthorized killing inside The Continental, a safe haven for assassins and anyone operating in the criminal underworld. Acting like a person with nothing to lose, John once again commits another big no-no within 5 minutes of the movie. The repercussions extend to his inner circle, those who’ve come to his aid such as the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) as well as Winston and his loyal concierge Charon (Lance Reddick, who sadly passed away last week). 

At long last, a path to freedom seems within reach, but of course, his former employer wouldn’t let him off easy. John faces a new antagonist in the form of a high-ranking member of the High Table, Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård, sporting a bizarre French accent). Just like many powerful members of this elite club, this marquis likely inherits his position, thus the only thing he’s good at is making threats and barking orders. But what makes him deadly is his powerful ability to turn John’s old friends into foes.


Enter Caine (Donnie Yen, once again playing another wisecracking blind man) who like John is a retired assassin who’s been cajoled into a life of crime once more for fear of losing a family member. Being friends with John sure is costly, and soon his friend Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his daughter (Rina Sawayama) get embroiled in his mess and pay for it dearly. There’s also a tracker who goes by the name ‘Mr. Nobody’ (Shamier Anderson) who’s got a dog. Of course, dogs have be part of the story somehow.

The fourth sequel is the first John Wick movie not written by Derek Kolstad who created the character originally. Screenwriters Shay Hatten and Michael Finch carry the thread of what comes before, filling the script with full-on action from start to finish. The narrative of each JW movie basically serves one purpose and one purpose only: to lead from one action scene to another. There are at least a dozen fight/shootout/chase scenes, probably more. The kill count is through the roof though the people John kills are mostly bad guys/killers who want John dead, so there is relatively little collateral damage. 

Stahelski and his team are so adept at staging the most creative fight sequences. Not satisfied with kung fu, gun fu, knife fu, and dog fu, here we also have car fu in the most spectacular location – Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. It’s a car chase and fight scene in one where John and his foes have to dodge bullets/knives/punches as well as cars! Chapter 4 could practically double as a travelogue for the City of Lights, with so many of its famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Palais Garnier, etc. captured so beautifully by DP Dan Laustsen.

The filmmakers upped the ante of the action in an epic way that I often go ‘how did they pull THAT off?’ The one in a Berlin underground dance club (filmed in The Kraftwerk) with hundreds of extras is one of them. Between flashing lights, loud music, and hundreds of people dancing to the rhythm of techno beats, it was already a lot to take in for your senses even before the fights kick in. It’s definitely one of the craziest, most insane action scenes even by this franchise’s standards, set at a stunning location with walls of water all around them. Martial artist Scott Adkins is unrecognizable here in a fat suit, but he sure can still fight.


Yen is the clear MVP here not only for his bad-ass fighting skills with his trademark cool demeanor, but he’s also hilarious! I’m game to see more of Yen-Reeves pairing in action comedies, they light up the screen every time they’re together! Clancy Brown adds gravitas in his brief screen time as the Harbinger while the Japanese-British pop star Sawayama looks cool but Akira is more of a throwaway character. But of course, the success of this franchise is largely thanks to its charismatic star, Keanu Reeves. There isn’t a deadlier assassin who’s so inherently likable on screen.

I have to say though, as great as the fight sequences are, I got pretty fatigue from the constant motion. It’s exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure as there’s barely any break for either the characters or the audience. I have to shut my eyes a few times during the extended action scenes as some just went on too long. Not to mention the fact that the movie is nearly 3 hours long which is so unnecessary. Yet I have to hand it to Stahelski and editor Nathan Orloff as the movie actually doesn’t feel that long, topped by a memorable finale at Sacre-Coeur and the 200+ steps leading up to it that makes people laugh and cheer. 


Fans of the franchise should have a lot of fun with this latest chapter, bursting with kinetic energy throughout, accompanied by a rollicking score by Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard. My fave track from the original JW soundtrack is Shots Fired by Le Castle Vania and I’m pretty sure they used it in one of the shootouts. Stahelski and Reeves have been saying they intend to give this franchise a rest, and I think they’ve earned that. At least we’d get to see Reeves don that bespoke suit once more in its spinoff Ballerina with Ana de Armas.

After over a year’s delay because of the pandemic, Chapter 4 is well worth the wait.

4/5 stars

So, are you a fan of the JOHN WICK franchise? If you’ve seen Chapter 4, let me know what YOU think!

15 thoughts on “JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 Review – pure adrenaline actioner that’s wickedly Reeve-ting

  1. I was going to see it this weekend but I’m low on cash at the moment and the afternoon screening I was hoping to get was way more expensive so I’ll wait probably next week. I do want to see this as I just love Keanu and I want to pay tribute to Lance Reddick.

    1. Yeah I’m blessed to get press screenings as cinema trips are so expensive these days. But a matinee is a great idea and it’s well worth seeing on the big screen, Steven!

    1. I know! I teared up watching Lance on screen, too. Hey I get it if this isn’t your thing, there are a lot of popular movies that don’t appeal to me either.

  2. Saw it earlier on Saturday and I agree with most of your review here, Although, my score would be around 3, it’s just way too long and I totally agree that some of the action scenes needs to be trim down. The battle at the Osaka Hotel and the climatic gun fight at the staircase in Paris went way too long. I gotta give credits to Chad Stahelski and his team for coming up with cool and creative action scenes but he needs to edit them down more.

    What’s great about the first film was how tight of the editing all the action scenes were. But that’s a small budget film and when the sequels became more and more popular, they have more money to shoot bigger and longer action scenes. I hope this was the last of John Wick film but I highly doubt the studio would stop since the box office numbers will be big for this one.

    1. Hey there Ted! I think Ivan would probably agree w/ you on the rating. He thought it was good but went on too long. I enjoyed it immensely and the music + location definitely made the overlong scenes watchable. I do agree the Osaka Hotel scene could’ve been trimmed by at least 20 minutes! The scene at the subway w/ Sawayama is useless and she’s a throwaway character. I kept expecting she’d turn up again later in the movie but she disappeared!

      I’m hoping this is the end of the franchise as well, as Stahelski + Reeves have said repeatedly. I don’t think I’d want to see any JW spinoffs if neither one of them were involved. Reeves will still be in Ballerina so I’d still see that.

      1. My assumption was that Sawayama’s character will show up in part 5 since they originally planned to shoot back to back and end the series with part 5. But because of covid, they decided to axed that idea. But it’s weird they didn’t cut that scene in the subway out considering how this one ended. But again, the top executives at Lionsgate already said they want John Wick 5 soon, so they’ll probably find some way to bring Wick back. I mean this series has turned into something similar to the Fast and Furious franchise.

        1. Ah yeah that’s possible they were setting her up for a future movie, but the way it is now, the way her character’s written/edited just didn’t make sense!

          Ahah, well Fast & Furious is just as ridiculous but I have to say Keanu Reeves is a lot more watchable than Vin Diesel and his smug face!

          1. Another reason why Sawayama’s character appeared in that scene is probably that her contract demands she appears on screen on for certain amount of time. Since she’s well known in the Far East, she and her agent probably demands that her character must be on the screen for a certain amount or she won’t be in the movie. It’s weird how some of these contracts in movies are negotiated.

            And speaking of weird negotiations, Vin Dielsel always put in his contract that his character in Fast and & Furious and other films can’t be beat in fight scenes. Apparently, he doesn’t like to see himself getting his butt whooped in films. Lol!

            1. Yeah I think you’re right Ted. I didn’t know who she was before this movie but I learned since that’s she’s a pretty famous pop-star in Asia, so yeah, her appearance would likely boost the Asian market.

              Oh geez, why am I not surprised about Vin. He’s such a talentless smug dude masquerading as an ‘actor’ so obviously his giant ego can’t handle losing even in a pretend world!

  3. Great to hear it lives up to expectation. I need to watch Part 3 again as I felt it was a bit of let down compared to the other two but I love seeing Keanu Reeves in this character. Thanks Ruth.

    1. Hey Dan, always nice to see you stop by! There are even more fun action scenes here as much as in Part 3 and yes, Keanu is as perfect as John Wick. I don’t think anyone else could’ve been as likable playing a killer as he is.

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