The way of the warrior is death…
Action cinema finally has its Lawrence of Arabia for its majestic sweep and its Godfather 2 for sheer storytelling. This epic chapter to the John Wick saga should be receiving Oscar nominations for everything from best picture, to screenplay to cinematography and if doesn’t establish an Oscar category for stunt work there is no justice in this world. So onto a review of quite simply the Greatest Action Movie Ever Made — John Wick Chapter 4.
John Wick as a Greek Epic Poem
According to it’s director, John Wick is a modern retelling of the Greek Epic Poem The Odyssey. In it, the hero goes off to fight in The Trojan Wars and then takes ten years to return to his homeland having all manner of adventures in the meantime. In our tale, John Wick is mourning the death of his wife and has a death wish himself. What pulls him back from the abyss is the gift of a puppy. When that is taken from him, we come to realize this is no ordinary man but an assassin that is death personified and you have just reawakened him. And once John renters the life, the underworld opens up its jaws to shallow him whole. Over the second and third movies, John can no longer go back to becoming the man his wife always wanted him to be. And what follows is killing. Lots and lots of killing.
Chapter four picks up six months after the last. John is still on the run from the High Table and has been given sanctuary under the streets of New York by The Bowery King. He has spent that time healing and training after having the worst week in human history. His first stop is a return to Casablanca to give the head of the High Table a final opportunity to return his wedding ring and lift the bounty on his head. Needless to say it ends badly. What the High Table does in retaliation is unleash a slimly Frenchman by the name of Marquis de Gramont , played by Bill Skarsgard to act as judge, jury and executioner on all things Wick, as the all out war with the High Table begins in earnest.
How many spin-offs might we eventually get?
Literally every character in this movie deserves a spin-off. John seeks shelter with his only friend left in this world in Shimazo Koji played by Hiroyuki Sanaa and his daughter Akira played by Rina Sawayama, as the management of the Continental Hotel in Osaka Japan. So of course, all hell follows with him. Donnie Yen channeling cool in a way not seen outside of a John Woo movie plays John’s best friend Caine, who is forced back into service against him to protect his daughter from the High Table. Then there’s Chilean martial arts sensation Marko Zaror playing the Marquis right hand man. Scott Adkins in a purple fat suit channels Sammo Hung from the movie SPL as Killa, head of the German underworld. Even the Kurgan himself Clancy Brown turns up the The Harbinger, to bring order to all the chaos that’s about to ensue.
I never thought the action of John Wick 3 would ever be surpassed without becoming repetitive, but God Damm does director Chad Stahelski and his stunt team lead by Keanu Reeves do just that in Chapter 4. The de concentration of the Osaka Continental begins the mayhem and the climax is a duel at thirty paces at sunrise in Paris on the steps of the Sacre -Coeur Basilica for John’s freedom. But before that, John has to face down High Table member Killa in Germany, engage in a car chase around the traffic circle of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, which ends in hand to hand combat using traffic, before he is chased into an abandoned church for a shootout that was filmed from overhead with shotguns that fire a shell called dragon’s breath.
John Wick and the Code of the Samurai
Finally, John has to surmount the 222 steps of the Rue Foyatier leading up to the basilica with every Hitman in Paris standing in his way. It’s kind of like the Greek story of Sisyphus, dammed to roll a bolder up a hill forever. Only he didn’t have to deal with hitmen trained in firearms and martial arts. Does John make it to his duel at the appointed hour and earn his freedom?
The movie was originally subtitled Hagakure-which is a book that exemplifies the Code of the Samurai. And in knowing this, you can appreciate that some men live by a code of honor that stands above the vow of servitude the High Table was forced them to live under. The most quoted line of the book is “The way of the warrior is death”. And every character in this movie is the living embodiment of that.