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Review: 'John Wick: Chapter 4' remains sleek amid its violence

Keannu Reaves returns in the popular action franchise as an assassin with killers from around the world trying to cash in on his bounty.

PORTLAND, Maine — [Editor's note: This article is a critical analysis of a film and does not represent the views of NEWS CENTER Maine, but that of the author.]

"John Wick" is one of the most popular action franchises, and Keanu Reeves is back with his signature beard and suit for "Chapter 4." 

As usual, every assassin in the world wants to collect the growing bounty on Mr. Wick. Before the movie is over, his body count will likely match or exceed the previous three films. 


John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has come a long way from the guy seeking revenge for his murdered puppy. He's been around the world multiple times and killed more people than could reasonably be expected to tally. 

He's earned the ire of gang bosses, other assassins, and the full eye of the mysterious hierarchy of killers he once belonged to known as The Table. 

"John Wick: Chapter 4" finds the once-retired assassin in far better shape than the previous movie left him after getting shot and falling off a New York hotel. 

He's on the mend and ready to kill as John charts a course for finally exiting his life of violence. After all the bouncing back and forth of revenge, rejoining The Table, immediately betraying The Table, and almost dying, it looks like John has finally realized he needs to start thinking about how this path ends. 

But The Table hasn't wasted any time moving against him, giving full power to an individual, Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård). The Marquis is determined to hunt down John at any cost, be it burning the famous Continental hotels to the ground or killing those loyal to The Table. 

John realizes that simply killing the Marquis won't end his struggle or the people hunting him. So, he's left with no choice but to work within the rules of The Table, challenging the Marquis to a duel for his freedom. 

Although John seems like a man ready to take on the world, he still has one or two allies left, like the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and New York City Continental Hotel Manager Winston (Ian McShane). 

Of course, like every "John Wick" entry before it, "Chapter 4" introduces a new slate of assassins like Donnie Yen as Caine, a blind swordsman who has a long history with John. And because the franchise loves dogs so much, Shamier Anderson stars as a tracker with a Belgian malinois at his side. He always seems to know where John is, tracking him across the planet. 

They'll try to kill John before he can make it to the final duel, along with dozens of other nameless assassins that ultimately serve as cannon fodder, just like in the previous three movies. 

Credit: AP
This image released by Lionsgate shows Keanu Reeves as John Wick in a scene from "John Wick 4." (Murray Close/Lionsgate via AP)


"John Wick: Chapter 4" continues the running experiment of how long a franchise can race forward on far more style than substance. How many people will show up to once again watch John kill wave after wave of nameless villains as he tries to navigate the endless storm of Latin phrases, rotary phones, neon lights, analog radio stations, dogs, muscle cars, and everything else that's become synonymous with this series?

Probably a lot. Why? Because this action franchise has offered up a sleek product that seems visually vintage amid hours of violence. 

Each movie in this franchise seems to have a little less narrative than the previous entry, supplanting John's hypothetical character development with adding a little more mythos to the mysterious world of assassins. 

There's a complex bounty hunter system, gold coins, markers, neutral ground within the hotels, and of course, the off-screen antagonists that loom over John for most of the franchise, The Table. 

Every time someone might pause long enough to ask, "Why is John killing these people again?" the movie will cut to scenes of women in some backroom office typing numbers into an old computer monitor or erasing chalkboards to write in how much John's head is worth at that particular moment. 

And that'll be enough to hold over most folks as they learn a little more about The Table or what tiny shred of backstory a particular assassin trying to kill John might hold. 

None of this is negative, by the way. Director Chad Stahelski, who has helmed each entry of this franchise since its beginning in 2014, knows exactly what he's doing. He offers a product that gives people who loyally come to watch these movies exactly what they want, phenomenal stunt work, Keanu killing people while simultaneously getting beat within an inch of his life, and an ocean of anachronisms that help sell the vintage vibe of this franchise.   

"John Wick: Chapter 4" is the best entry since the original, and it knows the milage on John's soul is starting to reveal itself more and more. So, it smartly plans for a narrative exit ramp. 

On top of that, this latest entry plans for story expansions and spinoff projects, adding to a roster of assassins Lionsgate is praying will bring people back to the universe, even when John Wick is no longer involved.  

Also playing this week

Morgan Freeman has a new movie out called "A Good Person." The story follows a woman named Allison (Florence Pugh) whose life falls apart following her involvement in a fatal accident. After the accident, Allison forms an unlikely relationship with her would-be father-in-law.

To see which movies are playing at a theater near you, click here

For more movie thoughts, follow Courtney Lanning on Twitter here.

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