Bill Skarsgård, Chad Stahelski, Donnie Yen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ian McShane, John Wick: Chapter 4, Shamier Anderson
Who—or what—is John Wick, really? A nearly indestructible assassin, sure. A lonely widower, definitely. A loyal friend, yes. A lover of dogs, certainly. But as John Wick: Chapter 4 gloriously proves, he is also a live-action cartoon character, as well, a Roadrunnerfigure who melds the qualities of that elusive desert bird with his genius for evading the falling anvil or rolling boulder with those of his hapless antagonist, Wile E. Coyote, who never gets to avoid the anvil or boulder. In his fourth and final outing as the character, Keanu Reeves gracefully inhabits both qualities, dodging bullets and flying fists and feet while expressing the pain of every bone-rattling encounter.
With Wick still among the living despite their best efforts to vanquish him, his vexed former employers at the criminal underworld’s High Table have reached out to a new psychopath to front their organization and bring Wick down. Arrogant and supercilious, Marquis (Pennywise himself, Bill Skarsgård) is a coward at heart who relishes in inflicting cruelty on others. One of his strategies in pursuing Wick is to isolate him from his allies, beginning by decertifying New York’s five-star hotel for the killer elite, the Continental, a dark turn of fate for manager Winston (the magnificent Ian McShane) and concierge Charon (the late Lance Reddick, the picture of elegance). The Tokyo Continental and its manager, Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada, Reeves’ costar in 47 Ronin), are similarly endangered by the Marquis’ lethal initiative. To further insure success, he blackmails one of Wick’s friends, Caine (Hong Kong icon Donnie Yen), a blind assassin, into targeting his buddy. And Marquis keeps raising the bounty on Wick’s head, unleashing an army of killers, including Tracker (Shamier Anderson), who, like Wick, loves dogs.
Fans of Walter Hill’s 1979 classic The Warriors will delight in John Wick’s third act, which is framed as a homage to that action thriller, only instead of traveling across New York, Wick speeds across Paris. And instead of encountering Gramercy Riffs, Baseball Furies, and Rogues, he is beset by a seemingly endless horde of killers intent on earning millions by taking him down.
In this fourth outing together, neither Reeves nor director Chad Stahelski have lost a step. Reeves is all-in as the nearly indestructible Wick, kind of the anti-Tom Cruise, in that you know that that one is always going to come out the way he started, fit and fresh as a daisy. With Wick, no one would be surprised if he had full-on hip and knee replacements between the last film and this or wore an elaborate brace beneath his impeccable tailoring. Reeves makes us feel every punch, fall, and other crunching shock to his system. And it’s a lot of such trauma: Stahelski rarely eases up on the action of tension for long. As a former stuntman, he knows how this kind of action is supposed to work and he is a genius at execution. The film is nearly three hours long but the time flies by.
Every Roadrunner cartoon eventually comes to an end, and so it appears the same with John Wick. But if this is Reeves’ last go-round in Wick’s skin, he is going out in a glorious hail of flash, bam, boom. It is a fitting goodbye to an indelible character. –Pam Grady