Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 4

The style and shootouts are as impressive as ever, but with a bloated runtime and the weight of too much story, this installment starts to wear thin.


Hundreds of minutes and thousands of bullets later, it’s getting to be a bit much.

That’s not to say that “John Wick: Chapter 4” lacks style, excitement or memorable moments. The latest installment of the franchise about a seemingly unkillable, immaculately attired hitman out for ever-escalating revenge is often good and sometimes thrilling.

There’s just an awful lot of it — 169 minutes of it, to be precise, and it feels like more — largely due to the exhausting action sequences, some of which stretch for a full half hour. Even those of us who are gluttons for watching punishment will likely check our phones once or twice when a single brawl eclipses the length of an average sitcom episode.

The plot of the series is at once hopelessly vague and infinitely simple, a paradox that the filmmakers turn into a strength: Wick (Keanu Reeves) is trying to escape the criminal life for good and is willing to do a lot of damage to earn his freedom. That’s the simple part; the details involve a vague and ritualistic criminal syndicate of infinite reach and endless power.

For the most part, the series — created by writer Derek Kolstad and directed by Chad Stahelski — uses that ambiguity to add mystery and the illusion of a grand, detailed narrative while keeping the action simple and easy to follow. In “Chapter 4,” however, the weight of the story starts to stretch the seams of credibility (and wear on the audience’s attention). Once again, Wick is given a series of impossible, firepower-focused tasks to win freedom from the clandestine High Table; this time, it just takes a while.

The specific bad guy this time is a sinister Marquis played by Bill Skarsgård, the glowering villain best known for his turns as Pennywise in the “It” films. He provides an appropriate and intriguing foil; unfortunately, he is kept on the sidelines for much of the action while Wick deals with a frenemy (Donnie Yen), a new bounty hunter (Shamier Anderson) and a hulking gambler (Scott Adkins).

So yeah: A bit much.

“Chapter 4” is at home when it places a battle royale in a remarkable location. A long brouhaha in the midst of a German nightclub is transcendent; a rolling series of flights in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, complete with traffic occasionally launching baddies into the air like punted footballs, is kinetic and almost hilarious. It requires significant patience to get to those sequences — the former comes about 90 minutes after the opening credits, the second well after the two-hour mark — but, for action fans, the wait is worthwhile.

For the uninitiated, though, “Chapter 4” will be too much, too long and too deep into the series to bother with.

My Rating: 6/10

“John Wick: Chapter 4” is now playing in theaters.

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