By Daniel Paiz
“John Wick Chapter 4” is the focus of our next Cypher Flicks review, and this film delivers beyond expectations. There’s unbelievable choreography when it comes to the fight scenes. There are segments where the cinematography is exquisite, not just for an action film but for film in general. There are throwbacks to the previous installments, as well as a new character who might unexpectedly track down your attention.
What really makes this film special is how things are orchestrated together. It’s obvious that Wick plans to be a blunt weapon of carnage and destruction. However, there are times to play chess when playing checkers keeps leading you to the same endings. There’s a lot of coordination too.
Knowing who the chess pieces are…
Deliberant and methodical are go-to descriptors witnessing this film unfold. It’s hard to place my finger on it, but director Chad Stahelski along with writers Shay Hatten, Michael Finch and Derek Kolstad all put into this film a certain je ne sais quoi that isn’t in the previous three films. There’s of course the support for Wick (Keanu Reeves) from Winston (Ian McShane), the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), and Charon (Lance Reddick). There’s also an associate who’s been around as long as Wick and is in charge of the Osaka Continental: Shimazu (veteran actor Hiroyuki Sanada).
New additions to the Wick realm includes: Akira (Rina Sawayama), who is the daughter of Shimazu, Tracker (Shamier Anderson) who is after the purse more than he’s after kills (with a very ferocious ally), Caine (Donnie Yen) an old associate and friend of sorts to Wick, and Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) who is definitely the bad guy you love to hate more than anyone else in this franchise. Each new character in this play of life and death fulfills their role fantastically well, which adds to the gravity and tension slowly building throughout.
Caine and Wick are probably the most intriguing subplot of the entire film, due to what they’ve witnessed and what they know to be true about this business. Wick doesn’t have the same motivations as Caine, because Caine has something Wick doesn’t: a chance to prevent the inevitable. It’s interesting how family drives each character here, but it also reminds the viewer that despite the chaos and bloodshed, shreds of humanity remain in these two assassins.
222 steps (damn those stairs!)
The action in this film is immeasurable. Every time a Wick film releases into theaters, that’s the general sentiment. But, the stunts, the fighting, the weaponry, ALL of it is a symphony of wretchedness (which is meant in the best way possible). The hand-to-hand combat in this film feels like it’s evolved from previous chapters, and that’s not meant as a slight at all. There’s a rhythm to how Wick takes down each thug sent his way, each money-driven combatant chasing the ever-increasing payout for Wick’s demise with a series of moves that are so thorough. For good measure, the enemies are shot even after Wick has supposedly subdued them.
Nunchakus (nunchuks for English speakers) are the star weapons in this installment. Katanas, various blades and knives, and bow and arrows are utilized as well, adding another dimension of combat and tension that firearms alone don’t provide. Now that isn’t to say the Dragon’s Breath ammo didn’t set numerous scenes ablaze; the scenes featuring Dragon’s Breath are the most creatively filmed parts. Then of course there’s the cars used as weapons. Wait a minute, cars used as weapons sounds kind of clunky; but guess what, it was a wonderful maze of deadly chance!
Also, the settings are wonderful. New York, Tokyo, Berlin, Paris…all of them play such an important role. New York deserves better, but there’s a good chance it gets better in the future. The Sacré-Cœur at Montmartre is the perfect location for what will be an unexpected resolution of sorts.
The biggest spoiler this review possesses is that the 222 steps at Montmartre felt ten times longer, Justice’s Genesis jams in the background, and remember what goes up can easily roll. And roll. And roll down. It’s tough to distinctly recall the other songs played in this action epic. The fight scenes with countless cars had some jams though.
Those who cling to death, live…
There is so much to think about in the last portion of this film. The setting of the final sequence is a poetically wonderful view, despite the events unfolding. The strategy playing out here is wicked; let’s just say when one does not respect their opponent, one seals their fate. What’s also intriguing to see is that it’s not just the final scene for a few central characters; it is the final segment for everyone of note. The ending is a bit John Wick-ish, but it feels different here too. One can debate that, despite what’s in front of us, did that happen? Others will accept what has been pronounced throughout the film. Also, don’t make the mistake I did of leaving before the end of the credits: apparently (for the first film of this franchise) Chapter 4 has an end-credits scene!
In any case, this is a wonderful litany of action and strategy, and the question of which set of rules one follows in life. There are those who follow a path of rules and consequences. Others tend to understand rules to be a series of guidelines, where grander things like loyalty, respect, family, and more drive one’s decisions. There’s much to reflect on, and there’s heavy symbolism throughout the entire film in terms of quotes, numbers, etc. I really want to rewatch it again right now; alas, such is life.