John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) Final Trailer – Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård

As an actor, Reeves is a bit of a Rorschach test; what some deride or ding, others find reward in. Few can reasonably take issue with the mesmeric physicality he brings to the Wick films—a compelling blend of grace and raw brutishness. But the emotionality he brings to the character of Wick is an under-appreciated element of the franchise’s success. From the first film, for anyone invested in this series, the searing pain of receiving the puppy and the simple note from his wife and the snarling rage of his low-ground threat to Russian crime boss Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) still linger. Reeves solemnly tries to invest some of the material with deeper currents, but there are unfortunately no scripted moments of comparable emotional mooring here.


For all its extensive world-building, and the ways in which its characters and their choices feel like they track and fit together sensibly, this chapter drops the ball a bit with regards to coloring in the learned lessons of its protagonist’s journey. (Screenwriters Shay Hatten and Michael Finch sub in for Derek Kolstad, who wrote the first two films and co-wrote the third.) Some attempts at these resolutions lie in counterpoint, with characters like Caine and Mr. Nobody. But there are multiple missed opportunities to sketch out and wring emotion from Wick’s deep brokenness, and the causal-loop nature of his dilemma, in which every avenging murder has only brought him more enemies.

The film cries out for moments of quiet and reflection amid the din. The filmmakers try to touch on this with Mr. Nobody’s dog, but a conversation with Winston and the Bowery King about gravestone markers, for example, just comes off as clumsy.


As a hitman, Wick is a solitary and private figure, so these realizations need to reflect that interior nature. Why not a daisy, or any number of other small moments or markers glimpsed along the way that highlight Wick’s loss and emptiness, as well as his perhaps changing relationship with those intense feelings?

Though it certainly checks the portion-size box, John Wick: Chapter 4 is not a bad or mindless reserving of only orgiastic action excess. But neither is it entirely successful in what it so clearly aims to do, on a story level. Rather, the film illustrates the inherent difficulties in successfully serving multiple (narrative, in this case) masters. In the end, maybe that’s fitting for the John Wick franchise, an entertaining and somewhat unlikely series long poised between the expansive and the intimate.


John Wick: Chapter 4 opens in theaters on March 24