The opening of John Wick: Chapter 4 shook me. Literally. The subwoofers in the theater reverberated with the glorious pulsating THUD of John Wick pounding his fist over and over again. Laurence Fishburne boldly announces that ‘the mother-fucking king has arrived’.
‘Holy shit’ I said to myself. ‘This is already the most epic thing I’ve ever seen’.
And I wasn’t wrong. The next three hours contain some of the most high-octane, non-stop, balls-to-the-walls action I’ve seen in any movie ever. Period. Holy shit. We’ve got car chases. We’ve got a duel to the death. We’ve got a fight scene in the middle of a fucking rave. We’ve got a fucking long-take with a birds-eye view of a shootout, which is one of the most impressive tracking shots I’ve ever seen in cinema. We have an exhausting, iconic, character-defining fight for survival on the steps of a cathedral. Jesus Christ, it is relentless, and glorious, and jaw-dropping, and the pinnacle of action entertainment.
As usual, the plot is straightforward but still engaging. John is being hunted by the Marquis, played with ruthless insecurity by Bill Skarsgard. His primary assailants include Donnie Yen, delivering another breathtaking performance as a conscripted but conflicted assassin, and Shamier Anderson, a ‘hunter’ who tracks John and is eager to take him out… for the right price.
What’s really impressive though is how each John Wick movie ratchets up the stakes, expands the world, and never feels like a studio-made sequel cashing in on a franchise. It’s like each movie pulls back the curtain to reveal a bigger glimpse of the world of John Wick. The customs, the traditions, the villains, the inner-workings. Even the lore of the iconic tattooed female Accountants (the women in the steampunk call center) adds a new dimension with the addition of the sultry radio DJ.
In other words, these movies are not rehashing or regurgitating. They are a textbook study of how to make each subsequent installment bigger, better, richer, more thrilling, more iconic, and more awe-inspiring. At the end of each movie, you think to yourself, ‘there’s no way the next movie can POSSIBLY top this’. and then you’re proven wrong and it’s fucking amazing.
It goes without saying that the production design is flawless. But I’ll say it anyways. The production design is flawless. Every shot is crisp, bold, iconic. usually neon-lit, and seared into my brain. John wearing a tuxedo in a car with no doors? Iconic. The poker game between him, Donnie Yen, and Shamier Anderson? Iconic. The shootout on horseback in the desert? Iconic.
And without getting into spoilers, let’s just say the ending is also flawless. It may be the perfect conclusion to what may actually be the most technically perfect action movie franchise of the 21st century. I’m still in awe of how immaculately crafted, technically proficient, visually striking, narratively resonant, and all-around iconic this final chapter is. And yes, it is the final chapter. It truly cannot be topped, and God willing I don’t think they’ll try to top it.
Long live the mother-fucking king.