"John Wick Chapter 4" Source: Lionsgate

Review: Thrills, International Glamor in 'John Wick Chapter 4'

JC Alvarez READ TIME: 3 MIN.

The enigma of John Wick is as engaging as the similarly legendary status of the man who portrays the assassin on the big screen. Keanu Reeves solidified his blockbuster marquee allure as the enigmatic superhero of the cinematically revolutionary "The Matrix," written and directed by Lilly and Lana Wachowski. The '80s screwball persona of "Bill & Ted" gave way to the cool and cunning FBI agent in 1991's breakout hit "Point Break," but it was 1994's "Speed" that guaranteed the then-unassuming actor was as capable an action star as he was commercially versatile in any genre.

Reeves continues to defy expectations in the latest installment of the high-octane, adrenaline-riddled action franchise, "John Wick: Chapter 4." Directed by Chad Stahelski, the franchise's latest outing spans the globe, featuring the most unbelievable fight choreography ever seen, and continuing its tradition of bringing in the best talent to fill a cast of the most colorfully deadly characters ever to grace the silver screen. The film checks all the boxes for a summer blockbuster, and fans will hang on every frame of the nearly three-hour run time.

As he seeks to escape this kill-or-be-killed world, John Wick takes out another high-powered player, further magnifying his alienation. His latest kill has raised the price on his head, drawing even more attention than even he can imagine. Every bounty hunter and tracker worth their weight is now combing the world for any signs of Wick at the behest of the latest and newly appointed "Maquis," played by Bill Skarsgård, who will stop at nothing to claim his prize.

The shadowy international assassin's guild known as the High Table has requested that the excommunicated Wick be brought in or killed on site, and anyone that is connected to or has harbored Wick will pay the ultimate price. The New York Continental, headed by longtime ally Winston (Ian McShane), is the first to draw scrutiny from the Maquis, who demands a penalty for Winston's betrayal. Wick is far from New York, across the globe, when he is finally tracked by the High Table's agents, who have contracted Caine (Donnie Yen) to take him down.

The inevitable meeting between Wick and Caine is spectacular, and, given the two actors' martial arts training and background, the fight sequence that ensues is brutally elegant. You can't underscore the violence in the series of "John Wick" films; after all, the mythology explores a clandestine underworld of mercenaries and assassins that live for the kill. There's a poetry in the fight sequences that is chilling and mesmerizing, from the various forms of gun play to the coordinated use of swords and knives. It echoes an era of marital arts cinema that glamorized the sport.

In "John Wick" it elevates the narrative. There isn't the Tarantino gore in Stahelski's fights; there's a focused intention to bring the audience into the environment and kinetically move the action along. It's both scenic and macabre, but you can't help but appreciate it. The world of "John Wick" is not one anyone would want to inhabit, but for the price of the ticket it's worth following Wick, the ghost in search of a graveyard on his mission of vindication. Wick's trials and tribulations, and his labored constitution, are reflective of the lone gunman of the Old West who has little choice.

John Wick doesn't seek or invite the violence in his life, but it's cost him, and he can't deny that at his core he is a killer – and that makes him a threat. Natalia Tena plays Katia, who is prepared to align herself and her family with Wick in order to bring down the Maquis. In a parallel moment to the hit cyber-punk excellence of "The Matrix," Wick enters an abandoned subway tunnel used by the resistance during the occupation. There, he is reunited with Laurence Fishburne, in the role of the homeless Bowery King, who provides him once again with an arsenal of weapons to take into the final fight.

With this chapter, the world of Wick becomes more and more intricate and the puzzle opens up to even more intriguing players. Sadly, "Chapter 4" marks the final appearance of beloved late actor Lance Reddick who played the role of Charon, the righthand man to Winston. Reddick's illustrious career in genre-flicks and voice acting made him a fan favorite whose presence will be missed.

"John Wick: Chapter 4" opens in theaters on Friday, March 23, 2023.

by JC Alvarez

Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".

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