Movie Review: John Wick 4

Note: This movie is not suitable for children.

As someone who was a bit late to the party, not seeing any of the John Wick movies until I found them while doing some traveling, and finding myself surprisingly interested in the actions of a lone wolf who tries to shoot his way out of his problems only to find himself more intractably connected to the problems of a world of elites who live by both the gun and the law in a strange combination that makes this film (and the series it is a part) both a bloody and gory action movie full of senseless and gratuitous violence, but also a film that offers surprising and unexpected depth. This is not an easy film to review, at least given that I desire to give (as much as possible) a non-spoiler review to the film because it is something I wish to recommend, and do not want to spoil for those who would read this review and then might ponder whether or not to see the film in the same unspoiled way that I went to this film only knowing that it was the fourth film in a series, that it was well-liked by audiences who tend not to feel that films which cater to the dreaded “modern audiences” are really made for them, and that it was a film that had a diverse and generally young and mostly male audience, and also, importantly, that there was not going to be a sequel to the film.

What most impressed me and troubled me about this film is that I went into the movie expecting a gory but generally riveting and entertaining story, and what I got out of it was something that genuinely moved me with its sense of foreboding and moving tragedy. The film appears like a Greek tragedy, with characters openly discussing the weighty themes that give it surprising emotional depth even as the audience watches, both in awe and somewhat in horror, wondering whether the film is actually going to live up to the emotional depth that it contains. And it does. Over and over again, the film broaches the reality of a legal code under The Table that rules the conduct of bloody but orderly people organized by families and by a complex parallel legal and economic order to that one finds in the regular world. Similarly, the film is full of resonance about the value of friendship, and about the way that violent elites deal with problems by seeking to pit people against each other to preserve the larger order that they are all a part of, even as some people within that order vainly seek their freedom from the violence that engulfs them and the fatal consequences of stepping over the boundaries of their world.

This is not to say that everything in the film is equally deep and resonant. The script of this movie is barely functional, providing the minimum amount of dialogue to allow the necessary information to be conveyed to the audience, much of it of a cliched nature. No one is going to be winning any awards for this script, let me assure you. That said, the direction and cinematography and stunt coordination of this film are top-notch, and the way that the action of this film is choreographed and shot provides a great deal of the resonance and meaning that this film has to offer. The budget of this film is spent well–the stunts are superb, and there is a real sense of risk and daring in some of the shots, especially in the Paris sequence that comes at the end of this film, which is masterful in how it is handled by the director as well as by those involved in the brutal ballet that takes up the final third or so of this movie. Those who watch the movie and were, as I was, surprised but also pleased by how it ended are also advised to stay until the post-credit sequence which closes the one plot hole that was nagging me a bit when the main part of the film was over, an ending that you might not otherwise see coming and which brings home the brutal truth of this movie’s story even more than would be the case otherwise.

Much of this film is spent putting various men together who all have different agendas. The viewer who wants a happy ending is likely to spend much of the film troubled by the way in which vendettas and blood feuds seek to overwhelm the fragile order in which the characters live. While there are only a small amount of characters here that we are meant to care about–the rest of the people are nameless and faceless beings who engage in some excellent dancing before getting killed via head shot over and over and over again in a variety of locales, the characters we do care about are involved in a complicated situation that leads one to wonder how it is all going to work out for the best. And having watched the film, I can affirm that there is not going to be a sequel, for sure, but that the film does manage to provide some painful lessons. As one watches this movie from beginning to end, one is reminded that those who engage in anarchical and chaotic violence that threatens the order of a system tend to find peace and rest only in death, and that friendship and family are of great worth even when, especially when, they are costly, even as the system remains after they are dead and buried.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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