REVIEW: John Wick: Chapter 4 Released on Digital Home Video

Directed by Chad Stahelski in his fourth time behind the camera in as many installments in the franchise, John Wick: Chapter 4 is now available on digital home video. With a runtime pushing three hours of bombastic action filmmaking, this is a flick that seeks to answer the question: “How much action is humanly possible to fit into a movie?” Keanu Reeves, possibly the hardest-working man in Hollywood, returns to the titular role as Mr. Wick goes to war with The High Table. Perhaps there is yet a path to freedom – but not an easy one, as hundreds of assassins look to collect the ever-growing bounty on his head. 

From its humble beginnings with the first John Wick film in 2014 – which grossed $86 million worldwide on a production budget of approximately $25 million – this film series is now a $1 billion franchise thanks to the steadily ascending financial success of each subsequent film. The mythos and lore of the John Wick story have consistently grown as this character traverses the world, fighting across historical urban settings and diverse natural environments alike. Whether Wick is taking on an enemy in New York City or Casablanca, each respective location is mined for maximum narrative and emotional value. Stahelski and company understand the endless potential of any city’s nooks and crannies to provide a compelling backdrop to complex action sequences. 

With various forms of martial arts on display in these films, including judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, kung fu, karate, and a host of others, the best of the best action stars in the world are given opportunities to showcase their expertise. Notable newcomers in Chapter 4 are Donnie Yen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama, and Marko Zaror. They each get their moment to shine, whether they are fighting against or alongside Wick.

 Looking to Donnie Yen in particular, this legend of Eastern action cinema has crossed over into various American productions over the past decade or so, mostly in supporting roles. Ultimately in this movie, while it might be a stretch to call him a co-lead with Keanu Reeves, he is fairly close to fitting that criteria. Playing the role of Caine, this character’s journey elicits an emotional connection from the viewer almost to the same degree that we connect with the continuing arc of the John Wick character. Caine and Wick are old friends, and there is a brotherhood between them – but circumstances have them pitted against each other. This dynamic is the beating heart of Chapter 4 and sets up moments that are genuinely tragic, but just as often touching and even humorous. 

Another scene-stealing presence in the cast is Scott Adkins, a prolific action film star who is practically unrecognizable in the role of German gangster character Killa. Covered in layers of prosthetics that give him a bulky appearance akin to that of Kingpin from the Spider-Man comics, Adkins gets the chance to delve into a deliciously over-the-top character performance, and still exhibit his martial arts and hand-to-hand combat skillsets.  

There are many things that separate the John Wick franchise from other American action film series’, but the effectiveness of Dan Laustsen’s cinematography cannot be overstated. In terms of camera movement, there is an extended long-take action sequence (also known as a “oner”) in the third act of Chapter 4 that is one of the most impressive of its kind in recent memory. Conceptually, it is similar to a famous shot at the end of Martin Scorsese’s film Taxi Driver, in which the camera pans overhead throughout multiple rooms of a building. In Taxi Driver, this scene shows the aftermath of a very violent event. In the case of Chapter 4, this sequence is an unbroken take of approximately five minutes depicting John Wick wreaking havoc on dozens and dozens of assassins who have been dispatched to take him out, with the camera following the action from above and sweeping from room-to-room. Another prominent set piece in the third act finds Wick at the center of a traffic circle in Paris, with motorcycle-riding antagonists forming a vortex around him, as the camera swirls in a 360 motion. Laustsen’s ability as a cinematographer to blend both subjectivity and objectivity in the visuals of the numerous action scenes takes this film to extraordinary heights. 

Regarding special features on the home release of John Wick: Chapter 4, there are 12 bonus featurettes included with a digital purchase. The Blu-Ray release, set for June 13, will contain the following additional behind-the-scenes documentary shorts: “Chad and Keanu: Through Wick and Thin,” “The Blind Leading the Fight,” “Making a Killing,” “The Psychology of a Killer,” “Suit Up/Shoot Up,” and “Packing a Punch.”  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *