After the bloody events of the third film, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) resumes his fight against the powerful consortium of notorious crime lords called the High Table. At the very start of this new installment, John went to the deserts of Morocco to seek out and assassinate The Elder (George Georgiou) who sat above the Table. Of course, this bold action would spur the whole High Table on retaliatory mode.
For failing to contain Wick, high-ranking High Table member Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) declared Winston (Ian McShane) "excommunicado" and even demolished the New York Continental Hotel. Meanwhile, Wick sought asylum in the Osaka Continental Hotel, managed by his old friend Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada), and the Marquis dispatched the deadly blind assassin Caine (Donnie Yen) to go exterminate him.
Fans will of course be expecting that all the fantastically violent stunts and gun, sword and fist fights that held us breathless in the first three films will still be there and certainly, this new film did not disappoint. Despite the intimidating 169-minute running time, director and fight choreographer Chad Stahelski was skillfully able to sustain audience attention and excitement with all his complex chaotic fights captured with his glossy and stylish cinematography.
The production, lighting and sound design were undeniably top-notch in its two most memorable fight scenes. The first one was Wick and Caine's first encounter in the Osaka Continental with its colorful glass paneling. The second one was Wick going after German Table head Killa Harkan (Scott Adkins) at the behest of Katia of the Ruska Roma syndicate, on a dancefloor full of unmindful gyrating clubgoers in Berlin.
The climax was supposed to have been a pistol duel at daybreak in Paris. However before that, Stahel still managed to stage two more spectacular, exhilarating action sequences in the final half hour. One was a counter-flow car chase around the rotunda around the Arc d'Triomphe, which must have been a nightmare to shoot. The second was a wild painful free-for-all fight up and down the 222 steps going up to the Sacre-Couer in Montmartre.
One may groan about Keanu Reeves mumbling, or the over-the-top acting (save for the exceptional Donnie Yen and the always elegant Hiroyuki Sanada). However, "John Wick" delivered the bloody entertainment its fans expected and way more.
John Wick may have been beaten up, shot down, stabbed through, hit by speeding cars, hurled down flights of stone steps, yet he just kept on fighting to the end. That's how we like it.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."