John Wick: Chapter 4 has managed to consider its pastiche and to continue it on with a toothy grin. Optimistic about the opportunities before it and the chance to create new and bloody stunts from the movements and desire of a titular character, director Chad Stahelski holds firm. His fourth in the line of John Wick films has birthed a titan-like action series that has relied on, and rightly so, on Keanu Reeves. His inclusion here along with the famed faces of action history, particularly Donnie Yen and vaguely unrecognisable Scott Adkins, pursue what could be perceived as closure for the character whose roots have always, consistently, found their way back to simplicity.
Even when the cards are on the table and the introduction of Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) and The Harbinger (Clancy Brown) bring about exciting new narrative threads, John Wick: Chapter 4 always relies on the simplicity of its first feature. To think that was nearly a decade ago. Those major stylish overhauls have seen the glitz and glam of location change, but the perspective, resolution and guiding narrative thread has maintained itself through sharp writing and teasing legendary details. Friends and foes are the core of that, and even if they have not been introduced, they hold a well-regarded place in a careful, crafted universe. Yen particularly gets a fair showcase and is a catalyst for how Stahelski hopes the series will be looked on. Silky smooth action setpieces that are built on honour between characters new and old, particularly the inclusion of Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuko Sanada) and Yen’s stellar support with Caine.
Despite this Reeves-led feature having little time for anything other than gunfights, explosives and action, some moments tie loose ends together. Lance Reddick marks a brief appearance alongside Ian McShane to conclude part of their story together, the late great of the screen with some exceptional parting words for the latter Winston, who spends most of this feature alongside Laurence Fishburne. Their chemistry is delicate and offers a nice break from action-clad setpieces, the bulk of which are entertaining, exciting and crucially new to the series. Shamier Anderson and Rina Sawayama are crucial additions that kindle the flame of something new for the series. Fresh ideas are continued throughout John Wick: Chapter 4, even if some of it, particularly the history of the High Table and its conclusiveness feel rushed and sudden.
That much can be forgiven considering the neat yet crinkled bow it ties around the package so far. Plenty of tension, an abundance of action and the plot armour worn thin for everyone involved. John Wick: Chapter 4 is an exciting continuation of a powerhouse piece that never forgot its roots. Little glimmers of that are present throughout, sometimes a little too frequent or on the nose, but the point of their inclusion makes sense for the narrative. To leave is to join and to join is to go against the grain, the continuation of cinema’s finest assassin is a rewarding experience for fans of the series so far and will mark an action feature full of surprises for those new to the franchise. Storming through with confidence once more, the John Wick series adds another fine addition to the well-maintained story.