“John Wick: Chapter 4” is like going to the opera for action film lovers


“John Wick: Chapter 4” is the long-awaited fourth installment of the “John Wick” series. (Courtesy of Lionsgate)

Ian Lloyd, Staff Writer

After four years of waiting since the previous film, “John Wick: Chapter 4” is finally here. The series has slowly grown in popularity since its first entry. Keanu Reeves, who was once a punching bag for critics who called his acting wooden, has fully emerged to the peak of his career right alongside these movies. In the new era of action cinema the John Wick series helped develop, the newest film has landed, and it’s as triumphant as the series has ever been.

In “John Wick: Chapter 4,” John Wick (Keanu Reeves) struggles to maintain his fight against the endless horde of assassins that are part of The Table, an underground organization. The more he fights, the more his friends and colleagues suffer. With the help of the last few uneasy acquaintances he has, John must make a final effort to earn his freedom by playing by the enemies’ rules.

These movies silently integrated themselves into film culture during a time when action films were lacking. With the rise of CGI effects and digital filmmaking, studios were often more inclined to take the cheaper option when it came to action filmmaking. What once took meticulous planning and training could now be edited quickly and animated to present the illusion of authentic action sequences. It was lazy, but with the subtle introduction of “John Wick,” film culture has returned to that authentic filmmaking.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back with a ferocity to survive and earn his freedom. (Courtesy of Lionsgate)

The “John Wick” films all function on inspiration from a multitude of films, genres and filmmakers. Director Chad Stahelski’s influence goes all the way back to the era of silent films, taking the slapstick physical comedy from Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd and modernizing it into the current action language. Instead of following trends, Stahelski uses his experience as a stunt performer and studious knowledge of film history to craft action that never slows down, never grows old and always finds an innovative way to push the medium forward even after three immaculate films from this series.

The action in this film is performed like a symphony. Every actor plays their part to make a triumphant display of elegance. In a world where business suits are bulletproof, these professionals perform murderous acts of violence as if they were ballet. The characters use guns, swords, rifles, explosive shotgun shells, nunchucks, cars and pencils to kill their enemies in the fight to stay alive. 

Donnie Yen plays Caine, a sword-wielding assassin who uses brute force to detect enemy movement. (Courtesy of Lionsgate)

Each of the main characters has their own unique fighting styles, which are fun to see clashing together throughout the film. Caine (Donnie Yen) is a blind assassin who brute forces his way through action scenes in an intentionally sloppy manner to throw enemies off guard. Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson) is a tracker who stays in the shadows, rarely engaging face-to-face as he takes foes down from a distance. John is a quick, efficient machine who shoots close to ensure his targets are down. 

The “John Wick” series is not renowned for the plot in between its setpieces, but these films present a world that feels wholly different than any other blockbuster. This universe is one where there are gods in the shape of men among mortals. The characters never interact with any “real” people, as these films deal primarily with this underground ring of assassins. The trials, obstacles and foes John encounters resemble ancient tales of Greek gods who wage wars against each other more than it reminds one of actual assassins or underground organizations. 

The “John Wick” film exists in an elevated world of assassins that parallels classic myths and legends of Gods. (Courtesy of Lionsgate)

This hidden world is compelling, elevating the films into a mythos that recounts the fables of gods who wage war to stay alive or avenge the mortals they grew fond of. We do not come to these films for the story, but we leave with tales of these unstoppable beings from the action scenes that won’t leave our minds. We tell colleagues and friends the legendary events, rooting the myth of John Wick in our reality. 

This might be the last John Wick” film we get for a good while. There are spinoffs in consideration and in post-production, but this film gives the audience an energetic conclusion of sorts to this wonderful franchise. What once began as a seemingly high-effort bargain bin action movie starring Reeves soon evolved the entire action genre over the course of a decade. 

Action is at a new peak that we haven’t seen since the early 2000s, and a huge reason for that is the love and effort that went into making these movies. The characters might be brutal killing machines, but the filmmakers and crew involved have some of the most genuine and authentic love for movies you will ever see in the industry.