John Wick: Chapter 4 review

John Wick is back and it’s so much John Wick, he gets his own article.

I remember seeing the trailer for the original John Wick in summer of 2014 and thinking, “This looks really stupid.” I wasn’t a huge Keanu Reeves fan and the movie looked like nothing more than a guns-instead-of-swords variation of his last film, 47 Ronin, which was so terrible I stopped watching it an hour in. To be kind, Keanu Reeves was never the most believable dramatic actor and despite spearheading two of the best action movies of the 90s (The Matrix and Point Break), his performances always came off as wooden. One night my roommate put John Wick on against my protests and much to my surprise, I couldn’t stop watching. This was really fun. Dumb, yes, but an exhilarating action picture that excelled in how shamelessly goofy it was. It jived perfectly with Reeves‘ acting style and stood as maybe the most interesting and endearing character he ever put to film.

When John Wick 2 hit theaters in early 2017, I went with a couple friends and absolutely loved it. It was even better than the first, with superior action sequences, compelling supporting characters and some really impressive world building. After that, I considered myself a stan 4 LYFE, and when summer of 2019 rolled around with the release of John Wick 3: Parabellum, I was there opening weekend with bells on. Well, not actual bells, imagine how annoying that would be. 3 wasn’t as tightly edited as 1 or 2, (read – too long) but it did feature EVEN better fight sequences, really impressive and extended brutal, pulse-pounding brawls that lit up my neurons like a motherwicking Christmas tree. It also continued to expand the John Wick world and while I wasn’t crazy about the Lawrence of Arabia desert horse stuff, the continued exploration of The Continental, a luxury hotel for hitmen, run by HBO character actor megastars Ian McShane (Al Swear-engine from Deadwood) and Lance Reddick (Lt. Daniels from The Wire), as well as all the Laurence Fishburne-Bowery stuff was fascinating. The best part was that I went in thinking this was the closing chapter of a trilogy, but no, there was way more story to tell. Could these movies get any bigger???

Four long years passed before we got John Wick 4. Covid came and completely changed the world along with how we access movies. Because of quarantine and the vaccine taking a long ass time to arrive, studios started releasing a lot of their blockbusters on streaming at the same time as theaters. It seemed like theaters were becoming extinct and when the vaccine finally arrived and people were up and at em’ again, the studios couldn’t close the Pandora’s Box of “fuck-it-we’ll-wait-for-streaming” they opened. Despite their and Nicole Kidman‘s best efforts, movie theaters were dying. They still are. There’s a huge push for “in theaters only” releases but most people have caught wise to the fact they can just catch those movies a month, maybe two months later on some streaming service they could easily get with a free trial. Could a single movie change this that wasn’t lame and named Avatar?

John Wick 4 is a fantastic action movie that, despite being frequently thrilling, is just way too long. The first 30 minutes in particular seem like they could have been trimmed down to ten. It’s a relatively action-free bit of character and world-building that ultimately doesn’t seem sufficient enough to properly develop it’s Japan Continental father/daughter characters that help John Wick along the way. At the thirty minute mark, we get our first big action sequence and from there it’s pretty non-stop. The action starts without John Wick which is interesting because it made me realize that I don’t want to watch action in these movies if they don’t include John Wick. It’s just more exciting when you have a character that has been developed over three movies. You have someone to root for.

The cast is really solid here with Reddick, McShane and Fish all delivering fine work in returning roles. Curiously, Asia Kate Dillon as The Adjudicator is missing as well as Jason Mantzoukas as The Tick Tock Man, not to be confused with the Tik Tok Man, John Leguizamo as John Wick’s trusty mechanic, who was also missing from JW3, and most notably Oscar Winner Halle “I’m Storm, Bitch” Berry and her scrotum-chomping German shepherds. Anyway, the new cast we have is pretty solid. Bill Skarsgaard is perfectly slimy as the new French bad guy and Shamier Anderson is really solid as hit man on the trail of Wick, although it took me a while to warm up to the supposed threat a guy who looks like a hipster backpacking through Europe would pose but his dog is super cool, so fuck it!

The real standout here is Donnie Yen as Wick’s main adversary, a blind hit man brought back into the fold by Skarsgaard to eliminate John Wick once and for all. Not only does Yen give us some of the best pure martial arts the series has ever seen, he creates a very likeable and surprisingly complex character for a movie like this. He’s a retired and reluctant assassin who doesn’t want to be hunting John Wick (or anyone really) but is put into a position where his family is threatened. Every punch and kick this dude throws is beautifully punctuated with this “fuck, I guess I’ll do it!” attitude that generates not only laughs but a good deal of empathy, more so than any villain the Wick-a-verse has featured thus far. Speaking of funny, I thought Billy Zane was in this movie for a hot minute, hidden under layers of fat prosthetics as this deplorable Russian gangster. It was actually Scott Adkins, who is hilariously over-the-top as a Saturday morning cartoon baddie sprung to live action life. His scenes provided me with some of the hardest laughs I had in the theater.

Of course, the visual element is the strongest part of these movies. All the technicals from the cinematography and editing, to the gorgeous production design and lighting really set this apart from most action movie franchises that aren’t science-fiction related. The stunt work is also some of the most brilliant I’ve ever seen. The fight choreography which as my co-worker and friend pointed out in his Letterboxd review, should seriously warrant a special Stunt Work Oscar category being created. There should be one nominee in the category only – John Wick 4 – and they should just hand them an Oscar at the top of next year’s telecast and all stand and clap. Holy shit, there’s a fight scene on the Montmarte Stairs in Paris, leading to the final boss battle, that is BREATHTAKING. I almost shat my pants I was so excited. Look, it is moments like these that really make you realize the power of movies. Not to get all Nicole Kidman on ya, but…

We come to this place for magic. (like the magical fictionalized world of John Wick)

We come to AMC Theaters (where I saw JW4):

  1. To laugh (Donnie Yen and Not-Billy Zane, check!)
  2. To cry (tears of joy over amazing fight choreography, check!)
  3. To care (we love Keanu and we’re starting to adore Donnie Yen‘s character, check!)
  4. Because we need that, all of us (yeah it’s been a rough fucking couple years, check!)
  5. That indescribable feeling we get when the lights begin to dim and we go somewhere we’ve never been before (yeah the Wick-a-verse is definitely not of this Earth, check!)
  6. Not just to be entertained, but somehow reborn together (I felt like a new man after JW4, check!)
  7. Dazzling images on a silver screen (the lighting, cinematography of the Wick-a-verse, check!) Sound that I can feel (I swear I felt a vibration hit my butt during an on-screen car smash, check!)
  8. Somehow, heartbreak feels good in a place like this (We weep for John Wick and his quest to not use violence anymore, check!)
  9. Our heroes feel like the best parts of us (show of hands, who would kill for their dog?, check! check! check!)
  10. And stories feel perfect and powerful (ehhh it’s 20 minutes too long, but it is powerful at points, half-check!)
  11. Because here, they are. (they sure are, B+)


The Last of Us Season 1HBOMax

Poker Face Season 1Peacock

Scream 6In Theaters

Creed III In Theaters

Cocaine BearIn Theaters & VOD

Ant-Man and the Wasp: QuantumaniaIn Theaters

Triangle of Sadness Hulu



Nightmare AlleyHulu

Crimes of the FutureHulu

Fire IslandHulu

On the Count of ThreeHulu

The Worst Person in the WorldHulu


Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Hulu

The Banshees of InisherinHBOMax

Empire of LightHBOMax

The MenuHBOMax


Elvis HBOMax


Last Night in SohoHBOMax

The Card CounterHBOMax


The Matrix ResurrectionsHBOMax

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