John Wick: Chapter 4

John Wick: Chapter 4 ★★★★½

I enjoyed the first 3 John Wick movies but I didn't love any of them. I felt they took elements from better action movies - The Raid 1 and 2 primarily (the best fight choreography), Mission Impossible (the best stunts, globe hopping, and the all round best action films), and a dash of Bond (the suave, mysterious main character and worldwide factions) - and added it all together into something that didn't feel fully whole.
The first felt a bit like a test run for Stahelski and ripped off The Raid. The third was a bit bland and uneven storywise. The second was my favourite until now and found the best balance of all the elements it was trying to combine.

However, with the fourth instalment, Chad Stahelski has painted his masterpiece!
There are action sequences in this film that made me shake my head in disbelief. Whoever came up with the idea to give Wick a shotgun with incendiary bullets deserves a Pulitzer prize for fiction. And whoever decided to shoot that scene with an overhead crane shot, perfectly showcasing the geography of the rooms in the building, deserves all the oscars! It might be my favorite pure action sequence of all time. In fact, the entire Paris section is phenomenal - the Arc de Triomphe sequence being another jaw dropping highlight.

What separates this film (and the Raid films) from all other purely fight focused pretenders is their ability to choreograph fight scenes that transcend pure action. They are closer to ballet in thier execution and hold a deeper meaning than just fighting for the sake of fighting. It's fighting as art, it's fighting as opera, it's fighting as interpretive dance, it's fighting as poetry. They also understand how to edit a fight. The mistake most action films make is to over-edit fights to the point that they lose all meaning and you can barely see what's happening. Even in the past Wicks, I felt that they went a bit overboard with quick edits, but here they seem to have found the perfect balance between holding a shot, and cutting to a better angle to take in the latest punishment Wick is dishing out. It's honestly beautiful.

The other stand out element in this film is the supporting cast. Every single actor brings their A game. Hiroyuki Sanada might genuinely be the coolest man alive and sells every single piece of fight choreography as well as anyone in this film. Donnie 'Ip Man' Yen is in top form and hilarious here. Rina Sawayama absolutely kills it, I need her in more action movies ASAP. Scott Adkins has a ball hamming it up in a fat suit! Bill Skarsgard is the best Wick bad guy to date. And best of all, coming out of seemingly nowhere, Shamier Anderson elevates what could have been a relatively bland part in worse hands into a charismatic breakthrough performance - there isn't a doubt in my mind that we're going to be seeing much more from him.

The only slight criticism I have, and the only thing holding me back from giving this 5 stars, is the fact that it still lacks something intangible - perhaps a bit of heart, or real nail-biting stakes. If I look to my personal favourite action movies (The Mission Impossibles, Hero, Mad Max Fury Road, Hard Boiled, Face Off), they all move me in a way that very few movies do, and have something otherworldly or inherently magical about them. And this film, despite delivering everything you would want from it, can't quite reach those heights. But the fact that I'm even thinking about it is a huge accomplishment.

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