24 Mar 23
When John Wick's dog was killed some nine years ago, it set in motion a chain of events that saw the legendary hitman get drawn back into a life he thought he'd left behind.
If he wasn't always the better for it, we certainly are. The mix of stylish, brutal action and clever world building turned it into a hit, and the two subsequent sequels have ensured John Wick's status as one of the most exciting action franchises of the last decade.
With the fourth chapter, returning director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves look to up the ante once again. The last film ended with a badly injured but alive Wick escaping the clutches of the High Table, a council of crime lords that govern the underworld.
They're the people who have put an ever-increasing price on our anti-hero's head, but Wick will be going on offence, taking the fight to the ruling organisation by seeking out its most powerful players across New York, Paris, Osaka, Berlin, and more.
That makes this instalment of Wick more of a globetrotting adventure than previous outings, which in turn gives Stahelski & co. more prime opportunities to further build upon the underground world of the assassins.
This is a crimeverse that includes bulletproof suits, special gold coins as currency and the Continental – a chain of hotels located all around the world that act as a neutral ground for all members of the criminal underworld, a rule that assassins must adhere to lest they suffer the unforgiving consequences.
There will surely be more tricks up this franchise's sleeve as Wick takes in each district's own ecosystem, befriending old allies and encountering new foes along the way.
Those new foes will doubtless deliver the inventively choreographed, hard-hitting action scenes that have defined the John Wick franchise and helped distinguish it from many of its contemporaries.
The fact that Reeves still does all of his own stunts only makes the fight sequences that much more believable and gripping, with each disarm, flip and pinpoint-accurate gunshot lovingly captured in long takes.
The kung-fu, gun-fu, knife-fu, horse-fu and dog-fu always pack an impactful punch that's felt through the screen. And with the additions of the legendary martial artists Donnie Yen and Hiroyuki Sanada in Chapter 4, the one-man army known as Wick will need to utilise every iota of his focus, commitment and sheer will to get the job done.
Making those numerous battles even more tense are the high stakes driving Wick's actions. If he succeeds in his mission, then he might finally earn a way out of the assassin's life and return to his life of retirement.
That's powerful motivation for Wick to come out on top, and bad news for whoever gets in his way. Exactly what this film will mean for the future of the franchise – an Ana de Armas-led spin-off, Ballerina, is on its way, as is TV show The Continental – is anyone's guess. But the all-but-guaranteed mayhem exploding onto screens will make it a must-see. Amon Warmann
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