The running-time bloat that could harm sequels is one of the many possible forms of inflation. As a result, “John Wick: Chapter 4,” a more-or-less epic film that emphasizes the series’ trademark amazing stunt work while packing the action to nearly exhausting proportions, expands the useful 90 or so minutes of “John Wick” to 2 hours and 49 minutes.
Although it is due to circumstances that occurred off the scene rather than on it, the tragic death of co-star Lance Reddick lends the movie a heightened degree of emotional resonance. Reddick has a relatively little role, yet his presence has a melancholy undertone.
Beyond that, the extra time is, charitably, devoted to displaying as much inventive mayhem as possible, with Keanu Reeves’ reclusive hitman attempting to cut himself loose from his affiliation with the enigmatic group known as The High Table by, as usual, killing everyone. This clears a path toward the organization’s sneering leader (Bill Skarsgrd), who has put a sizable bounty on his head.
The choice of Donnie Yen to play Caine—an old friend and ally of Wick’s who was grudgingly assigned the task of killing him and who was equally skilled in the art of killing and then killing some more—helps raise the film’s degree of antagonism. Shamier Anderson, a mysterious mercenary whose goals are as opaque as Wick’s Kevlar jackets, joins the battle with his equally deadly dog.
Chad Stahelski, the film’s director, leverages Caine’s hesitation and the graphic nature of the action to turn the picture into comedy by dragging out the violent moments and breaking down the audience’s resistance. Once again, the supporting cast shines, particularly Ian McShane’s worn-out Winston, who always manages to steal the stage in every scene he is in.
Due to the vast canvas and the various intricate action pieces, including a lengthy battle over the crowded streets of Paris, Wick is unable to resist repeating his signature fighting motions (punch, shoot, repeat) endlessly. As a result, the effect becomes dull rather than exhilarating.
The very fact that the series has progressed to “Chapter 4” level highlights both Reeves’ history with this sort of muscular vehicle and the equity associated with the brand.
A battle between Caine and Wick occurs at one point, and Caine exclaims, “Let’s get this s**t over with,” which makes the crowd chuckle.
But by the time “Chapter 4” eventually draws to a conclusion, the remark appears uncomfortably more serious and literal than intended.
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