The fourth installment of the John Wick saga (JW4) is the longest in the franchise at 2 hours and 49 minutes but also most riveting in terms of cinematic experience. It all started with a widowed former assassin seeking revenge for the death of his beagle Daisy — a gift from his wife — in the first John Wick movie. In John Wick 4, the revenge saga has evolved into an action epic set across continents, featuring a host of fascinating characters and captivating action sequences.
As the titular protagonist of the franchise, Reeves suits up once again before he goes all guns blazing and leaving a trail of dead bodies. John Wick 4 doesn’t dwell on Wick’s back-story. That hardly matters since the audience is instantly caught in the whirlwind of gunfights, which are visceral and skillfully choreographed. The grieving, taciturn hitman appears dog-tired and seeks his “freedom” from The High Table, a ruling body of assassins.
The road to “freedom” is filled with face-offs with enemies, old and new. There is even a bounty on his head that keeps on increasing. So does the body count. Wick, however, is not without powerful alliances. There are rules and forces in this absurdly dangerous world of this franchise that put “brotherhood” to test time and again. They turn old friends into foes. But do these forces really outmanoeuvre the feeling of “brotherhood”?
How will the bloodbath end is a question that Wick has been asked more than once. He doesn’t have the answer even though he wants a way out of it. Reeves brings in his vulnerability, fatigue, grace and also brutality to essay the lethal assassin who wants to be remembered as a “Loving husband”.
The latest outing of Wick stands out for the poetry of its blood-spilling — the dance of death in a spectacular mix of striking choreography, scenery and music (created by Tyler Bates and Joel J Richard). Each one of these set pieces is filmed in a stunning location – in New York, Osaka, Berlin and Paris.
While the plot-line remains sketchy, the pithy one-liners add wry humour to the action-packed proceedings.
A host of interesting characters occupy Chapter 4’s neo-noir cinematic world, originally created by Derek Kolstad. Akira (Sawayama) is introduced to this world as a fighter aggrieved by the killing of her father Koji (Sanada). There is a tracker who identifies himself as Mr Nobody (Anderson) and is accompanied by his “emotional support” dog. What heightens the intensity of fights and adds emotional heft is the entry of blind assassin Caine (Yen), who is Wick’s old friend.
Those who are invested in this franchise will find that JW4 — combining graceful movements of martial arts with intense gun battles — has enough to keep them engrossed. They will also be reassured to know that Wick still remorselessly pumps bullets into anyone who harms a dog.