When the programmers at Austin’s largest media and arts festival announced their schedule for this year’s Film & TV section, two “Special” unnamed screenings were programmed on Monday, March 13, and on the closing night of Saturday, March 18. These secrets lasted only briefly, as their titles were revealed days before their screening dates. The first is the long-awaited fourth installment of the John Wick saga. This screening would prove to be one of the hottest tickets of the fest, as people (including me) would wait three-plus hours just to get into the Paramount Theater.
Since the events of the last installment, John Wick, aka “Baba Yaga” (Keanu Reeves), has had enough of the powers-that-be and has set his sights on the “High Table.” Though this sounds like another suicide mission for Wick, he has some allies willing to take his side. These include the New York Continental Hotel Manager Winston Scott (Ian McShane), Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada), the Osaka Continental Hotel manager, his daughter Akira (Rina Sawayama), and the legendary Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne).
The main target is the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), who sends his bodyguard Chidi (Marko Zaror) and assassin Caine (Donnie Yen) to take him out. In addition, every money-hungry bounty hunter is out for Wick’s blood, including one “Mr. Nobody” (Shamier Anderson). Despite this opposition, the legendary John Wick remains undaunted in his quest and will accomplish it or die trying.
Written by Shay Hatten and Michael Finch, based on characters by Derek Kolstad, director Sahelski gives Wick fans a most satisfying conclusion to the saga. As with all supposed franchise conclusions, we all know that this status is purely tentative. Should this saga continue in one shape or another soon or further down the road, only the creative minds behind the scenes genuinely know. However, should this be the end, I heartily applaud the filmmakers for closing everything on such an explosive note.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is action-cinema paradise! This movie features some of the most awe-inspiring, no-holds-barred action that has been featured in any of the previous films. The skillful cinematography by Dan Laustsen and the editing by Nathan Orloff beautifully capture and present the exceptional fight choreography–the surgically precise shootings, the impeccably performed martial arts, and every single kind of stunt one can think of in this type of action film.
Now, I have my criticisms to accompany my praise for these sequences. I get that the filmmakers are looking to top what has been done previously, but doing so makes the movie longer than necessary. Some of the action scenes need to be shorter. As far as the writing is concerned, there is enough character development on Wick’s part to carry the character through this carnage, but nothing that will win the film awards.
And as far as the cast is concerned, everyone in the movie understands their assignments well and delivers accordingly. Of course, it gives me great pleasure to see Keanu back in the saddle again, performing the most iconic role of his career. The real stars of this installment are the new faces. It is an absolute joy to see Donnie Yen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama, and Marko Zaror show off their mad skills as the legends they are. Watching Bill Skarsgård ham it up as the Marquis and Scott Adkins go ham as Killa, the head of the German Table, is also an added treat. It is so undeniable that everyone in this movie had such a wonderful time making it.
It is a no-brainer that John Wick fans will devour this action feast with much relish. As for those unfamiliar with this franchise, I am trying to figure out what is keeping you from these movies. These movies, mainly Chapter 4, deliver pure cinema magic. And this great time spills over to the audience, as was evident the night it screened at the Paramount Theater at SXSW.