5 out of 5 stars
“John Wick” may have started with a standard break-in, carjacking and tragically slain puppy, but Keanu Reeves’ character still has a lot to give. All he needs are “guns, lots of guns.” “John Wick Ch. IV” gives him those guns and sets up plenty of detail for the rest of the series.
As the fourth installment to the franchise, the latest John Wick film is a follow-up to the events in the third film, in which the Baba Yaga hitman was shot off a roof and into the hands of the bowery king (Laurence Fishburne) with seemingly life-threatening injuries. But John Wick is back and stronger than ever in order to secure his freedom from the suffocating High Table organization, now in the hands of the Grand Marquis (Bill Skarsgård).
Like in the previous films, we follow Wick through the eye-catchingly neon streets of New York and Europe with the addition of an expertly choreographed fight scene in the Osaka Continental, featuring legendary Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada (“Bullet Train”). The fight scenes, shooting locations and the introduction of new characters to the franchise, such as Tracker (Shamier Anderson), helped carry this edition to greater heights.
Although “John Wick Ch. IV” expands on its titular character’s escape from the high table’s grasp, the film sets up the cinematic universe of the franchise in a big way. My only hope is that they give John Wick the justice he deserves before focusing too heavily on other characters in the franchise, which seems to be the case with rumblings of a fifth “John Wick” film in discussion.
The “John Wick” series holds a soft spot in my heart, despite the hard violence, and it continues to get better with every new edition, especially in the realms of cinematography and world-building. Cinematographer Dan Laustsen’s work is expertly crafted, with each shot tracking the action and showing the destitute neon filled streets of New York, Paris and Osaka. Each passing shot provoked my girlfriend to look over at me and say in a Britney Broski manner, “the cinematography.”
The world building of John Wick is reminiscent of a comic book series, without being based on a comic book. While there has been a spin-off comic book series adapted from the films, the screenplays are so well developed that the canon of the movies feels as if it has been many years in the making. The vision of the writers is never ignored in this series, making it a refreshing spectacle to witness.
Photo from rollingstone.com.