Friday , June 2 2023

Film Review: ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ – Loving Husband

NOTE: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS A FEW SPOILERS

The latest installment in this terrific film series, John Wick: Chapter 4, is the strongest entry of the lot, and that is high praise since the films that have preceded it have each been exceptionally good. It is just that in this film Wick (the amazing Keanu Reeves) has everything to avenge and nothing to lose since he has already lost everything.

The film opens with Wick in NYC training for what is to come. He has been in hiding since Winston (Ian McShane) shot him and caused him to fall off the roof of the Continental – the worldwide chain of hotels catering to Wick and assassins like him. Taken in after that fall by the Bowery King (the always excellent Laurence Fishburne), Wick has recovered and is set on revenge.

The Recap

To recap for those unfamiliar with the films, John Wick was an elite assassin who paid his debts and left the profession to marry his wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) and to hopefully live a normal life. Unfortunately, Helen dies of cancer in the time before the first film takes place. Knowing John will be left all alone, Helen’s last act is to send John a puppy to keep him company. Due to circumstances beyond John’s control, a group of thugs invades his home, kills the puppy, and steals his car. This puts John on the trajectory that has catapulted him through all the films. His main goal is revenge, but in seeking it he thrusts himself back into the assassin’s world he wanted to leave.

John Wick is seeking revenge and taking no prisoners.

The High Table

In this film, John wants to get revenge against the High Table, the mysterious group of 12 who rule over the assassins’ league. The members of the Table come from various crime families from all over the world. Their actions in JW3 lead directly to Winston shooting John on the roof.

At this point we have never seen the group itself, but we understand it has incredible power. John mentions that he will take out the whole High Table, but even the King thinks that is a way too formidable task.

Consequences

Meanwhile, Winston and his right-hand man Charon (the late great Lance Riddick) have been called in to account for their assistance to Wick after he was declared to be excommunicado – like being banished from the church in the days of old. He meets with the despicable Marquis Vincent de Gramont (played with slippery delight by Bill Skarsgård) and is made to understand he must atone for his crimes. Winston tries to defend himself to no avail, losing his hotel and being declared excummunicado. To add to his grief, the Marquis shoots and kills Charon as to rub salt in Winston’s wounds.

Reddick/Charon will be missed!

The loss of Reddick in real life as well as in the series is a terrible blow for fans. Reddick, so memorable in The Wire and other TV shows and films, played Charon as a stoic, loyal, and honest concierge of the New York Continental. His presence will be deeply missed on and off screen.

Rumble in Osaka

John goes to Japan to see his old friend Shimazu Koji (the always impressive Hiroyuki Sanada) while the Marquis hires Wick’s old friend Caine (the great Donnie Yen), a blind former assassin with threats to kill his daughter if he does not comply. Not satisfied with one killer, the Marquis also contracts Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson) to take out Wick.

Akira and her father Koji

When the High Table sends assassins to the Osaka Continental to determine if Koji is sheltering Wick, things quickly get out of hand. Wick, Koji, and Koji’s daughter Akira (Rina Sawayama) take on these killers and eventually dispatch them all. However, Caine shows up after Wick leaves, and he and Koji battle. It brings amazing joy watching legends Yen and Sanada in the same scene battling it out – a dream sequence to be sure.

Eventually, Caine defeats and kills Koji with wounded Akira watching. She attempts to attack Caine, but he lets her live. This sets up a scenario for Akira to want revenge against Caine for killing her father and Wick for causing it to happen with his presence.  

A Duel to Settle the Score

Wick and Winston, now both seeking revenge, meet back in New York. Wick wants to be absolved of his actions and to be free from the bounty on his head. Winston suggests that he challenge the Marquis to a duel – in the ancient High Table laws, this is the only way to reconcile his situation; however, Wick must be a part of a crime family, specifically his family the Ruska Roma. He has to travel to Berlin to ask for reinstatement to the family that has ostracized him.

The Bowery King, John Wick, and Winston plot to take the Marquis down.

The rest of the way is major spoiler territory, but let it suffice to say that director Chad Stahelski – who has guided the ship for all four films – gives fans of this series exactly what they want and then some. Writers Shay Hatten and Michael Finch keep the action going full throttle with just enough pitstops to add to the story and the lore of the High Table. The soundtrack by Tyler Bates and Joel L. Richards pulses along with the action, and cinematographer Dan Lausten captures the awesome beauty of Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, and New York while also getting down to the nitty and the gritty of those places.

Assassin Caine and the Marquis plotting to eliminate John Wick.

Wick, John Wick!

Reeves adds to the John Wick mystique more robustly in each film. Wick is like James Bond with Chuck Norris vibes, and the backstory that we get helps us to learn a little more about Wick’s beginnings and the friendships that he has made and the enemies he has more than earned.

Wick’s goal throughout the series is about getting out again to live a simple, normal life – but as other characters constantly remind him, this is his normal life. He is an assassin and this is what he and others like him do. He was able to get out once with the goal of living with Helen like any other couple, but that is shattered when she dies and he gets brought back into that life again.

Loving Husband

Toward the end of the film, Winston shares that he put “Friend” on Charon’s tombstone because it summed up everything he was to Winston. Wick shares that he would like the words “Loving Husband” engraved on his tombstone. And John Wick was indeed a loving husband and would rather be remembered that way. Fate cheated him out of that role and left him with a little puppy to love. Once that puppy is slaughtered, that part of his life is gone forever and he goes into unrelenting revenge mode through four films.

The Verdict

John Wick: Chapter 4 is what it is – a spectacular nonstop roller-coaster action movie that is guaranteed to keep you in your seat for almost three hours of gunfights, hand-to-hand combat, and martial arts mayhem. I promise you that you are going to enjoy the ride.

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His books 'A Death in Prague' (2002), 'Move' (2003), 'The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories' (2005), and 'Like a Passing Shadow' (2009) are available in print, online, and as e-books. 'Heartbeat and Other Poems,' 'If the Fates Allow: New York Christmas Stories,' 'Garden of Ghosts,' and 'Flashes in the Pan' are available exclusively on Amazon. His newest books 'The Stranger from the Sea' and 'Love in the Time of the Coronavirus' are available as e-books and in print. After winning the National Arts Club Award for Poetry while attending Queens College, he concentrated on writing mostly fiction and non-fiction prose until the recent publication of his new book of poetry, 'Heartbeat and Other Poems' (now available on Amazon). He has worked as a faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with 'Blogcritics Magazine' since July 2005 and has written many articles on a variety of topics; previously co-head sports editor, he now is a Culture and Society and Flash Ficition editor. Having traveled extensively, Victor has visited six continents and intends to get to Antarctica someday where he figures a few ideas for new stories await him.

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