FILM REVIEW: John Wick Chapter Four (2023)

Fourth installment of the ever so slightly bonkers ‘John Wick’ series.

OK. For the uninitiated – in the first film retired hit man John Wick (Keanau Reeves) receives a dog from his late wife. She had known she was dying and had arranged it for him to have company.

Then in the middle of the night, car thieves steal his muscle car and kill his dog.

Wick then goes on the rampage to kill the dude that killed his dog, who just happens to be the son of Wick’s old gangland boss.

Now, ‘retired hitman goes on revenge rampage’ is fairly standard stuff. There are hundreds of films with that theme. However.  This is Keanau Reeves.  He doesn’t do anything by half measures. The epic fight scenes and body count are phenomenal.

Then we get chapters two and three,  with each one ramping it up from the last. More violence,  more bodies. It moves on slightly from the simple revenge theme though, with ancient assassin clan the ‘High Table’ unwilling to let Wick go back into retirement.  He refuses to play ball, breaks some rules, and becomes hunted by all sorts of nutters.

Spoiler alert, at the end of Chapter Three, one of his mates shoots him. But he lives to fight another day – obviously,  otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about Chapter Four.

Chapter Four sees Wick still fighting to be allowed to go back to being retired. But to do that, he has to kill a load of people.

Now, I’m not normally one for films that are focused mainly on violence,  with a plot tied in to the violence,  rather than the other way around. But there is something compelling about the way Wick does his thing. It is almost like watching ballet or a gymnast at work. Which goes some way to explaining how Wick alone kills one hundred and forty people (other killers are available) and still only gets a fifteen certificate.

The fights are so poetic, they even manage have a fight in a nightclub and people carry on dancing.

There are a few moments that made me flinch. Reeves manages to have slips, trips and falls, shootings and stabbings and still carry on. He is more indestructible than any movie character I have seen in a film that does not involve dudes with superpowers. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously though, there are moments that were so outrageous everyone in the cinema burst out laughing.

There are dogs and pencils in the movie for continuity and a late night DJ inviting ‘boppers’ to hunt down Wick that is more than a nod to the cult ‘Warriors’ movie. Also watch out for a nod to the old ‘Kung Fu’ TV series.

After seeing the first film, I was surprised to hear there would be a second. Surely it was impossible to top. And yet they did. And the third was so wild they couldn’t possibly take it any further.  Could they? Yes, they could.

And what’s amazing is that from the start of the film it is clear that it is going to be bezerk. Then as we approach the end, you think it is lined up for one last battle,  but they flip the bonkers switch and squeeze in possibly the craziest fight scene I have ever seen, before the final fight. It’s blinking exhausting.

It is not the most intricate of plots, but it is interesting enough to stop it being just fight porn. Reeves only says two hundred words of dialogue in the whole film (two words for every one person he kills) but his mastery of the fight scenes make up for it.

This film is incredibly wrong. On paper it is just the sort of film I would run away from. But it is the classic “so bad it is good’ movie.

It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger suggesting a Chapter Five, but with Wick, who knows. Expect the unexpected.