By Charles Kirkland Jr.
The epic conclusion to the saga of the Baba Yaga is upon us all as John Wick ends his quest to be free of the world of assassins, or does he in, John Wick: Chapter 4 (JW4).
When we last saw our friend John Wick (Keanu Reeves), he was on a quest to burn down the whole High Table and everyone who sits at it. In response to John’s swath of blood, The High Table has elected the Marquis to capture and eliminate John. The Marquis initiates a two-pronged plan to find John Wick. Unfortunately, the first prong involves revoking the charter and forcibly closing the New York branch of the Continental. Because of his connection to John, Winston (Ian McShane), the now ex-manager of the Continental, has been removed from all business with The Table thereby severing one of Wick’s sources of information and connection. The second prong involves hiring one of John’s oldest friends and one of the most feared assassins under The Table, a retired and blind man named Caine (Donnie Yen) to track and kill John.
JW4 is written by Shay Hatten and Michael Finch and is based on characters created by Derek Kolstad. JW4 stars Reeves, McShane, and Yen along with Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Shamier Anderson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Donnie Yen and Lance Reddick. As always, former stuntman Chad Stahelski returns to direct the film. Stahelski started his directing career with this franchise.
With the recent untimely passing of Baltimore-born, acting talent Reddick, it is bittersweet seeing him in this film as Charon for the last time. With this being one of his last acting performances, his role in the film becomes just a little more intense. The pressure to deliver is certainly ratcheted up on newcomer Ayomide Adegun who will be playing a young Charon in the Wick prequel TV series, The Continental.
Yes, prequel. Even though this is unofficially the last John Wick movie, this is not the last vision in the John Wick universe. Along with The Continental, another film, Ballerina, will focus upon a new assassin played by Ana de Armas who was introduced during John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Speaking of Parabellum, Halle Berry has not been shy about her ideas about a movie featuring her character from that film, Sofia. So even though the fifth film of the franchise has been scrapped, it’s a safe bet to say that JW4 will not be the end of John Wick.
This edition of John Wick is highly impressive. The story development is a little light but if you came to see John Wick for the story you aren’t a true fan of the franchise. It’s all about the visual arts bonanza that Chad Stahelski brings. “Gun-fu” goes to another level here as kill shots have to be a lot more precise due to multiple Kevlar suits and other body armor. Stahelski continues to bring inconceivable action in outlandishly creative stunt sequences that thrill and entertain unlike any other. Also, in a move that seems to be inspired genius, Stahleski presses into the criticisms about Wick being nothing more than a live-action video game by unfolding a scene that is literally a first-person shooter-style game sequence. It is a hilariously wonderful scene to enjoy.
Each film in the franchise adds something new. The new weapons are axes, nunchaku, and Dragon’s Breath (If you don’t know what this is, you won’t find out here.). These are just the ones that John uses. There are bows and arrows, throwing stars, and even cars used as weapons by various different assassins in this film. The biggest addition is the grandeur. To see gunplay and fights in the circle of the Arc du Triomphe and on the famous two hundred and seventy steps to Sacré-Coeur and again in one of the most exclusive nightclubs in Paris (it is still hard to understand how people continue to dance at these clubs when gunfire is happening all around them) is glorious.
Rated R for pervasive strong violence and some language, JW4 is the perfect escapist fantasy fairy tale. Stahelski pushes all his chips into the center in creating this grand, opulent, globe-trotting franchise closer that is bloody, violent, pulse-pounding, single, and double-barreled enjoyment. It was disappointing that Halle Berry was not in the film but there is an important post-credit scene. Don’t miss it!