Fourth time’s the charm for this franchise – a statement not often uttered in the Tinseltown bowling alley. But whereas third sequels to The Bourne Identity, Alien, Terminator Salvation, Thor : Love and Thunder, Batman & Robin, Superman IV : The Quest for Peace, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Spy Kids : All The Time In The World, Jaws : The Revenge, Death Wish IV, Saw IV, and Underworld : Awakening (get the picture!? Yep?) might’ve been too cocky, seemingly content with serving up tepid fourth-day scraps from a sleek doggy bag, filmmaker Chad Stahelski seems intent on flouting the number attached to his latest John Wick film and just making the best movie he can.
Whereas another studio might’ve asserted on chipping the stout, jam-packed and comprehensive script for John Wick : Chapter Four down the middle, the former stuntman turned filmmaker and studio Lionsgate seem unbothered by the potential whimpers from the impatient teen not to mention hefty budget that results from a 3-hour runtime, and instead just go for broke – like their writing a thank you letter to the franchises many fans for sticking with them this long.
Shay Hatten and Michael Finch’s script picks up shortly after the events of John Wick : Chapter 3 with long-suffering ex-hitman Wick (Keanu Reeves) finally uncovering a path to defeat former employers the High Table, who have owned his deadly ass for the better part of.. well, four movies now. Before he can reclaim his freedom, the human lethal weapon has to take on a slimy suit (Bill Skarsgard) and his assemblage of globally-placed assassins – easier said than done.
While Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, and the late Lance Reddick make for welcome reappearances, it’s Donnie Yen as Wick’s old friend Caine, a blind assassin who has faster moves than a scorpion on speed, and Shamier Anderson, a hired tracker accompanied by a deadly and loyal dog, that blow near everyone else off the screen. Though he has lesser screen time, martial arts fave Scott Adkins also gets to showcase his rarely seen acting skills, hiding behind a fat suit as the hilariously scummy whale-sized rogue ‘Killa’.
Blisteringly entertaining, and packed with some of the best action and fight sequences ever put on film (just wait for the third act – that staircase scene will have then petitioning harder than ever for a stunt award at the Oscars), this unrelenting rock’ n roll rollercaster of biffo and bullets is simply an epic film – The Godfather II of action movies, if you will – that pops on the screen.
Sure, there’s a few minutes here and there that editor might’ve chipped to see audiences never catch their breath (a big intent of these movies, clearly), and Keanu Reeves’ acting reminds us why his strengths lie in physically demanding action hero roles like Wick and his ‘Neo’ from The Matrix movies, but as a film his latest starring vehicle stands out as a true highlight on his long list of credits. You watch, Tarantino will be showing it to his film students in 25 years.