Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Shamier Anderson, Rina Sawayama, Bill Skarsgard, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Scott Adkins
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… an epic both in duration and scale, and can stand proudly beside Mad Max: Fury Road, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and The Raid 2: Redemption as one of the greatest modern action films.
John Wick is a series determined to keep breaking the ceiling. Starting out in 2014 with a flourishing creativity in action staging, and a depth of world-building that outclasses franchises that have been running for decades across all mediums, each follow-up set a new benchmark for the action genre. With how brilliantly Chapter 3 – Parabellum turned out, it’s difficult to conceive that Chad Stahelski, Keanu Reeves, and their crack team of specialists could top it. But it looks like yet another impossibility has been conquered by the Baba Yaga.
Seeing what Laurent Demianoff and his stunt team do with nunchakus, cars, stairs, and everything else within arm’s reach, you can almost picture the sweat on the brow of every other action filmmaker in the industry today. Every gunshot, every punch, every collision (or lack thereof, like in the roofless one-take shootout) with the architecture, hits with a thunderous wallop. It’ll make you wince, giggle, cheer, or maybe all three at once.
Even the dialogue between the carnage is enthralling. Series scribe Derek Kolstad is absent this time around, but Shay Hatten (Army of the Dead) and Michael Finch (Predators) carry on the style. Whenever people are talking, every breath is full of rarefied air, every word a fractal pattern revealing a lifetime of history between the speaker and the listener, every action the culmination of a dozen colliding emotions and allegiances. As colossal as the events on-screen are, the world outside of it grows even bigger.
The series’ musings on death, honour, and family reach their zenith here, with John’s own warpath supplemented by the dependably-pristine casting around him, in particular newcomers Shamier Anderson as ‘Mr. Nobody’ and especially Donnie Yen as Caine. Anderson does admirably as the man tracking John, waiting for just the right moment to strike, while Yen pushes the franchise’s already-high pedigree for action rivals to a whole new strata. Seeing Reeves and Yen’s cyclical ballet of squaring off and teaming up is legendary in the most classical definition of the word, both as veterans in prime form and as characters on comparable levels of sympathy, ability, and desire for the audience to see them succeed.
John Wick: Chapter 4 isn’t merely the latest chapter. It is its own glorious tome; a culmination of the efforts by Stahelski and Reeves to highlight action cinema as high art. It is an epic both in duration and scale, and can stand proudly beside Mad Max: Fury Road, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and The Raid 2: Redemption as one of the greatest modern action films. John Wick has once again set the standard.