John Wick has been a franchise that no one saw coming. Before the first film Keanu Reeves’s career wasn’t necessarily going places. The first film was a complete surprise to many including myself. Ever since that film though these films have been very much anticipated by the masses. Including myself. Fast forward to now and John Wick 4 is about to be released and I’m here to say it’s the best in the franchise by a wide margin.
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has been excommunicated from the high table and is a lone wolf on a mission to take out anybody he deems necessary. He becomes a liability and all those associated with him are expendable. He doesn’t have many allies but the few he still has stand by him through thick and thin. Winston (Ian McShane) and his New York Continental have come under fire as part of his support group even though he did shoot John and almost kill him. Getting help from the bowery king (Lawrence Fishbourne) is a big help as well. A new threat has arisen that is more dangerous to his survival than ever the Marquis De Gramont (Bill Skarsgard) is acting on behalf of the high table. And he will stop at nothing to rid the world of John Wick and anyone who stands in his way including Winston.
The John Wick franchise has always been known for its fight scenes and this fourth installment is no different than the other films. There are some incredible fight scenes in the Osak Continental hotel involving Caine (Donnie Yen) and Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada), two old friends of Wicks. Outside of the Arc De Triomphe in Paris involved hundreds of cars and hitmen. I have never seen anything like it before. As well as on a two-hundred-step staircase leading to a final duel. Men were coming out of nowhere to step up to fight Wick on these stairs. It was a demoralizing moment to some extent for all involved. The stunt choreography and action scenes were some of the best I have ever seen in a film in my almost 45 years of watching movies.
Two other aspects of the film that absolutely blew me away were the cinematography by Dan Laustsen. He has been known for his work with Guillermo Del Toro on Nightmare Alley, The Shape of Water, and Crimson Peak but to me, the best work of his career is on John Wick 3. Now change that to John Wick 4. He uses various ways to light scenes that bring out vivid colors throughout the film. The natural way of using sunlight to light rooms and the climactic duel scene. Candles to light long walkways that otherwise would be dark and or old churches and such and fluorescent lights to brighten nightclubs or rooms that characters are in. All the lighting choices are distinct and bring out the myriad of colors strewn throughout this nearly three-hour film. There won’t be many films that look this good all year long. This is an Oscar contender for Best Cinematography.
The other technical aspect that blew me away was the sound design. Each time a punch was thrown/felt or a gun was fired it was impactful. As a member of the audience, I felt them in my bones. Chad Stehelski the director wanted the audience to feel these clubbing blows and how loud this gunfire truly is. The sound was a character in the movie. It was part of what made this film work so well from beginning to end. I have never heard such great sound work in a film such as this before. Once again this is sound design that could be nominated for an Academy Award. It’s that good.
Why John Wick 4 works so well is the story. It is grounded in a world that has been impeccably set up by the three films before it. The rules this world goes by have been established and they stick by them implicitly. The filmmakers don’t deviate from the rules they set up. They make some new rules as the franchise progresses and they stick by those as well once established. One of the main rules we as audience members believe in is that John Wick is a superhero in his own right. He is basically indestructible. He wears suits made of kevlar that help deflect gunfire and are like armor for him. Even though he takes a lot of punishment he keeps coming back for more. The henchmen have these suits as well but shots to the head and knives through the neck are the ways to get rid of them most of the time. When you’re watching a John Wick film almost anything goes and this fourth film in the franchise proves that theory.
John Wick 4 was one of my anticipated films of 2023 and it didn’t let me down. Everything I could have ever wanted in this movie was in here. Incredible fight sequences with jaw-dropping fight choreography and breathtaking cinematography brought this world vividly to life once again, and pulse-pounding sound design that would rupture an eardrum. The technical aspects of this film are unmatched by any film this year or last for that matter. Keanu Reeves has become an icon in film and this character is his magnum opus. He has created a man that is a hero to so many watching in the theaters. Or at home, the previous films on physical media or streaming. We believe in him and that he is a literal superhero. The emotional wright we put on this character and film is felt in each scene. These films show that fully. This is the perfect conclusion to this franchise in so many ways. Hopefully, we will get to see this world expanded on soon with the Continental television show and the spinoff of the Ballerina. This is by far the best John Wick film by a long shot.
Dan Skip Allen