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Review John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023): Flawed but awesome!

genre: gun fu, action, martial arts

John Wick is a little action film that has started it all. I personally, didn't expect this to become this huge blockbuster franchise. Not because I didn't like it. I absolutely love John Wick and the genre overall. But because it was basically a B action flick and most of the time these films rarely get the recognition they deserve. Now even casual viewers are joining in on the fun.

And yes, after just having seen John Wick 4 in the cinema, I can wholeheartedly say that it was fun. I can't wait for this to come out on Blu-ray so that I can enjoy it over and over again. Honestly, I had big doubts after the third one. I was very disappointed with it. There was too much focus on hand-to-hand combat. Keanu is good, but he is too slow to convince you he is a master. At times, you could tell that experience martial artists like Mark Dacascos and Tiger Hu Chen were holding back. It was not what I wanted. I wanted him to do Gun fu since that makes more sense for him and looks far more convincing. It seems that director Chad Stahelski took the criticism to heart and focused on exactly that. But also let most of the martial arts perform by real masters like Hiroyuki Sanada, Donnie Yen and Scott Adkins. That being said, Keanu Reeves also seemed to have worked on the hand-to-hand combat, since he moves a lot faster and convincingly. Perhaps the nunchaku scene looked a little fake at first, but gradually improved to such an extent that it's one of the many memorable action sequences.

I also had doubts about the length. But I kind of get why they opted for that. The way the story is told, it does make sense. Its purpose is to build up momentum and make you look forward to the spectacle that is coming. It truly rewards you for your patience. However, there is a caveat. One of the good things of John Wick, is the lore and world building. It was very amusing and compelling up to part 3. Then it went downhill quite fast. Unfortunately, I can't say that it has improved. It just doesn't make sense. This secret society has created this myth around John Wick so that they and he would be feared. He is unstoppable and most importantly, unkillable. Then why would you waste all your resources on trying to kill him? Obviously, I understand that this is just to put events in motion. Still, in the first and second part, you wanted to know more about this secret society. Now, I just don't really care, as it's very likely they make it up as they go. I liked the addition of Clancy Brown as The Harbinger and Bill SkarsgĂ„rd as Marquis Vincent de Gramont. Dare I say, that it was his best performance yet? Far more effective villain than in It. Yes, more than the creepy clown. Think about that.

One of the highlights are the moments where Sanada, Donnie Yen and Scott Adkins turn up. One could argue that Adkins is nothing but a glorified cameo. Still, Adkins demonstrates again what a fine actor he is and pulls off moves we can only dream of doing. He makes every second count, and that is what matters. How isn't he a bigger star? I have to give credit to Stahelski for honouring the talent that was present. I think this is the first proper Hollywood film after The Last Samurai where he gets to show what he really is made off. The pupil of late Sonny Chiba has been in the film business since 1966. He easily could be in the same league as Sonny Chiba, Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. Then there is Donnie Yen. An absolute master and action icon who is still very active. Unfortunately, someone who has the rare talent to be part of very questionable projects. Yet, manages to be in the most awesome productions you can imagine. John Wick: Chapter 4 is one of them. Finally, someone gave him a real shot to be more than a side character. He actually is an important one. He embodies the spirit and soul of brotherhood while being pragmatic. Furthermore, he is probably the only character whose character develops a little. It was a real joy to witness this!

So what about the action? All I can say is, daaaamn! So much glorious Gun fu with very creative and surprising takes on it. There is one scene where the perspective changes, and you get to see a live action version of a video game called Hong Kong Massacre. Then there is the super insane chase / combat scene in the middle of Paris. You have to see it to believe it. There are many action sequences that are worth mentioning. But most important to note that these never get boring. Next to people, there is another player who needs to be mentioned. Mr. Nobody's Dog. She has no name but makes a real impression. This dog is incredible. There will be scenes where you wonder whether it's real or CGI. Nonetheless, it only adds to the magnificent viewing experience. 

Somebody called John Wick: Chapter 4 a masterpiece. I wouldn't go so far. There are many flaws. But yes, it is a film I can recommend to watch in the cinema before it hits Blu-ray and streaming services, since it is truly spectacular. 

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