‘John Wick Chapter 4’ Review: The Long And The Tedious

What began as a ruthlessly efficient genre film has devolved into yet another bloated action franchise.


Directed by Chad Stahelski, John Wick: Chapter 4 stars Keanu Reeves as the iconic title character. Along with Reeves, the film features Ian McShane, Bridget Moynahan and Laurence Fishburne reprising their canonical roles.

Tragically, beloved character actor Lance Reddick passed away just one week before the film’s North American release.

John Wick Chapter 4 is the only JW film not written by original creator Derek Kolstad, who was replaced by JW3 contributor Shay Hatten.

Hatten was later joined by veteran screenwriter Michael Finch, known primarily for his work on Predators (2010).

Delayed for nearly two years by the COVID-19 pandemic, John Wick: Chapter 4 debuted in the United Kingdom on March 6, 2023. The film has since become the highest grossing movie in the JW franchise, receiving praise from audiences and the vast majority of critics.

‘John Wick Chapter 4’: Full Plot Summary

John Wick continues on his quest for vengeance, circling the globe in an attempt to eliminate the “High Table”, the powerful executive tier of the world’s conglomerated criminal syndicates.

Back in New York City, Marquis Vincent Bisset de Gramont (Bill Skarsgaard) summons Winston Scott (Ian McShane) to a meeting. As punishment for his defiance in the events of JW3, the High Table deconsecrates the Continental Hotel and strips Winston of his protected status. The Marquis also shockingly murders Winston’s loyal concierge, Charon (Lance Reddick).

With stops in Morocco, Japan, Germany and France, Wick contends with legions of well-armed foes, including a trio of assassins competing for the escalating bounty on his head.

When Wick runs out of options, Winston informs him of an obscure High Table tradition. According to the ancient rules, John is permitted to challenge The Marquis (the head of the High Table) to a duel.

Winning the duel would free Wick from every liability imposed by the table. Losing would mean certain death.

Bill Skarsgaard as The Marquis.

The Marquis nominates a fighter to compete in his place: Caine (Donnie Yen), the blind assassin that’s been tracking Wick throughout the film.

Wick and Caine commence their fight at sunrise. Wick is severely wounded and collapses from the pain. Seeing that the odds have swung into his favour, The Marquis replaces Caine and prepares to strike the final blow.

But Marquis Vincent Bisset de Gramont is very bad at math.

John Wick still has one bullet in his gun.

Wick shoots and kills the Marquis, freeing himself from the chains of the High Table. Mortally injured, Wick succumbs to his wounds, seeing heavenly visions of his wife (Bridget Moynahan) as he dies.

Opinion: My Review of ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’

What was once a ruthlessly efficient genre film has devolved into another bloated action franchise.

John Wick was a pure revenge movie. It was John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967), but the psychedelia was replaced by gamification. With gold coins acting as tokens, Wick had to beat a new boss each time he ascended to another level of the criminal structure he was determined to dismantle.

Although fictional, the original John Wick world was also an avatar for our own. Gold coins represented Bitcoin. Underworld communication functioned via private analog telephone systems, a stand-in for the Dark Web. Various Mafias, be it Russian, Italian or American, were rooted in reality. Even vague entities like The Illuminati were predicated on established myth.

The first two John Wick films possessed an atmosphere that was perfectly in tune with its Neon Noir story tropes. All the right components were present: guns and cars and clothes, the city and the night and the rain soaked streets, fights in mirrored hallways, fights in crowded bars, a solitary man battling shadowy forces as a decadent city looks on in silence.

Holding these components together was The Continental, which acted as both a physical metaphysical structure within the text. As a hotel, it provided a plausible setting for the story to proceed. As a trope, the laws that governed the hotel legitimized the internal logic of the film itself.

Lance Reddick returned as Charon, in what become tragically posthumous performance.

Wick himself began as a brilliant feat of minimalism, an anti-hero boiled down to his most essential nature. But this only worked because he was surrounded by colourful villains, each of them unique, each of them driven by competing motivations.

This is sadly not the case in John Wick Chapter 4, where every player, including Wick himself, is a stock character that seems woodenly resigned to their inevitable demise.

While Ian McShane and Bill Skarsgaard add levity and dialogue, their brief scenes feel like cameos. Not to mention Laurence Fishburne, whose clownish overacting fails to resonate with the intended sense of gravitas.

Nine new characters are introduced in a slipshod way that prevents us from investing in their presence. Shorter fight scenes would have created space for meaningful backstories that might have endeared us to these people, particularly Wick’s adopted sister, Katia (Natalia Tena).

The experience of watching these characters interact on screen was akin to witnessing a pre-production table read. Just as I was getting some heavy Vin Diesel vibes, one of the bounty hunters (Shamier Anderson) refers to himself as “Mr. Nobody.”

Already the laziest character in cinematic history, “Mr Nobody” is a walking talking deus ex machina played by Kurt Russell in the unintentionally hilarious Fast and Furious franchise.

Coincidence? One franchise trolling another? Even lazier writing? None of the above? The only answer is to shrug and shove some popcorn in your mouth. This particular bounty hunter is not interesting enough to care about anyway, whether his dog is cool or not.

John Wick Chapter 4 should have been an opportunity to revive the story. To expand Wick’s world. To renew his sense of purpose, anger or grievance.

Instead, JW4 delivers something closer to Peter Jackson’s The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King. Endless battle scenes that blur together until they lose importance. A three hour slog that feels more like watching a video game than viewing a full fledged cinematic film.

Donnie Yen as blind assassin Caine.

Locations are stated in dialogue but not portrayed with any kind of spirit. Do we really need to be in Osaka for this? What do these scenes convey about the experience of living in Japan? Why is the hotel manager (Hiroyuki Sanada) so intensely loyal to John Wick?

As the film plows forward, a similar disconnect develops within the world itself. How many people work in this criminal underworld? A million? How many more of these people need to die before we arrive at the conclusion?

Once these questions are answered, we’ve already stopped caring. Even Wick himself seems bored by his predicament, as if, like us, he’s forgotten what the hell is going on.

And as the credits finally roll, our grief for Wick is numbed by the knowledge that should the movie turn a healthy profit, he won’t stay dead for long.

Is ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ Worth Watching?

It’s unfortunate that Chapters 3 and 4 could not have been combined into a single film. Although box office intake would have suffered, the story itself would have thrived.

Without clearly stated motivations, without compelling sub-characters, without metaphysical structures to control the film’s internal logic, it’s arguable whether John Wick: Chapter 4 is even really a film.

Perhaps it’s just an exercise in marketing. After all, the John Wick franchise dominated VOD in the weeks before and after Chapter 4’s release.

It’s also plausible that John Wick Chapter 4 is just a very long commercial for a slate of spin-offs that are more than likely on the way. There is simply no other explanation for the presence of nine new characters in what purports to be the final John Wick film.

Genres have parameters for a reason. To re-imagine them and make them new is the definition of the modern. To ignore them in favour of pleasing an unsophisticated cohort is the definition of kitsch.

John Wick: Chapter 4 is currently streaming across major platforms.

Since the time this article was written, Lionsgate has confirmed a 5th John Wick film is underway.

A spin-off movie, entitled Ballerina is set to be released in summer 2024. The film stars Ana de Armas, with Ian McShane, Anjelica Huston and Keanu Reeves reprising their John Wick roles, along with a posthumous appearance by recently deceased character actor Lance Reddick. Ballerina was written by John Wick Chapter 4’s Shay Hatten.

If you enjoyed this post, check out our article about Michael Mann’s Thief.

John Wick: Chapter 4

Director: Chad Stahelski

Date Created: 2023-12-08 00:50

Editor's Rating:


Tod Molloy is a freelance writer from Toronto. His first novel, Port Lands, was published in 2022. His second novel... Read more