About 20 minutes into the nearly three-hour-long John Wick: Chapter 4, I was tempted to keep a tally of the body count. Since that turned out to be an impossible task, one began to focus on the elaborate action pieces, hard-hitting violence, the blood splatter and the recurring presence of a dog.
In the fourth installment of this action franchise, Keanu Reeves reprises his role of the retired and grieving assassin John Wick, who was pulled out of retirement to avenge his dog’s death in the first part (2014), thus provoking his former employers. All the events of the last three films bring us to "Chapter 4". Pursuing him most zealously, and villainously, is the Marquis (Bill Skarsgard, with a highly questionable French accent and over-the-top suits) on behalf of the miffed High Table, a syndicate that controls the underground assassin world.
Wick is a marked man. Rendered “excommunicado” by the assassin league for breaking a cardinal rule, he now has to face off against former friends and encounter new opponents, shooting his way through Jordan, and Europe. There’s a huge bounty on his head. Wick is fighting for survival and working his way to the High Table. Anyone who attacks him or stands in his way will get shot, stabbed, sliced or bludgeoned by his nunchaku.
Series director Chad Stahelski pulls out all the stops to deliver a fan-favourite follow up to the previous three films, bringing in more comic book-like characters and graphic novel tones. There is a script, written by Michael Finch and Shay Hatten, but there really isn’t much of a story or dialogue. This is a relentless action movie that moves at a frenzied pace, jetting through New York, Osaka, Berlin, Paris etc.
Also present in the Wick universe are Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), Charon (Lance Reddick) and Winston (Ian McShane) of The Continental, who provide context and heft. One of the more fascinating characters is Caine (Donnie Yen), a blind assassin who was once John’s friend and associate. The newer characters include a tracker with a dog, who describes himself as “nobody” (Shamier Anderson). His real purpose and loyalty are ambiguous. Remove his storyline from the film, and nothing would be lost. There’s also Akira (Rina Sawayama), daughter of Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada), whose motivation is teased.
Stahelski delivers what the fans expect now–an elaborate fight in a nightclub, insane combat along the stairs to the Sacré-Coeur and in the midst of speeding cars around the Arc de Triomphe, which are not choreographed to music.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is a vast and visually outrageous canvas for stunt work, action choreography and design with a sincere and brooding Reeves as the anchor. It moves at a breakneck speed with the camera (Dan Laustsen) wildly and speedily capturing the action from all possible angles, sometimes going wide and at other times operatic. The editing (Nathan Orloff) keeps pace to capture scale and mayhem energetically. This is a passionately designed and delivered action thriller that is unflinchingly committed to John Wick, solidly led by an equally committed Keanu Reeves.