By: Russ Matthews
Since his introduction to the cinematic world, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has gone from a former assassin to a mythological figure.
His name has become legendary; some would even argue that his story is a metaphor for one man’s penance for his past sins. Whether he is a real man or a ghost working his way through or out of hell, director Chad Stahelski has delivered a decade-long franchise that has redefined the action genre.
Since the fateful conclusion in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, John has been resurrected to regain his place as one favoured again by the faceless force called The High Table. Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) is the current representative of the governing body, and his brief is to destroy the illusive Wick by any means possible. His sadistic methodology is to press on those who are closest to John, and his first target is the New York Continental Hotel manager Winston Scott (Ian McShane) and his concierge, Charon (Lance Reddick in one of his final roles). Then he goes on to recruit Caine (Donnie Yen), a close friend of Wick. Even though he is a retired High Table assassin, the Marquis manipulates him into attempting to kill his friend.
As John does all he can to go through the proper channels to get his place back in the good graces of The High Table, carnage occurs worldwide. He travels through Morocco, Osaka, Berlin, and Paris to find those who can help him out from under his ‘debts’ to the community. Caine and an unknown assassin named Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson) are tracking Wick and the army of hired killers from the Marquis’ team. He does get help from old and new friends, but it is hard to know if John Wick will survive this chapter.
As Keanu Reeves’ star continues to shine bright during this season of his career, one thing that can be said is that he is committed to this role. Whether it is the final chapter or the transition to the next level of the legend of John Wick, Reeves is what makes this all come together. Despite his ability to defy himself and to inflict death on so many others, the action sequences still manage to set the standard for the industry. Stahelski stays true to the character and the storyline while keeping it fresh for audiences. Understandably, this level of violence may be difficult for some to stomach and admittedly after 170 minutes of literal mind-blowing violence, everyone will feel a bit battered and bruised.
Yet, Reeves is not the only actor in this film, and this episode includes some of the best support of the series. McShane and Fishburne are welcomed returning characters, but the new additions take this to the top of the list for these films. Donnie Yen and Shamier Anderson deliver outstanding performances that will keep everyone off balance throughout the film. Also, Bill Skarsgård as the central villain provides the seething evil needed for an action film as he takes the role to new heights of villainy.
Since the references to earlier films are vital for the screenplay to move forward, Chapter 4 is for the faithful fans of the franchise. A set of films that builds on a violent world that will grab the animalistic appeal of some viewers while may encourage others to give this franchise a pass. This is a movie for those with discerning tastes. Considering this before reintroducing yourself to this former assassin would be worthwhile. Still, John Wick: Chapter 4 delivers on its promises and history by providing his faithful followers the very thing they have come to admire over the years as one of the best of the lot.
REEL DIALOGUE: Is hell a real place?
Throughout John Wick: Chapter 4, the afterlife is constantly discussed and most discussions lean into the Biblical notion of heaven and hell. One fascinating component of John Wick’s folklore comes from some fans who would argue that most of the final three chapters are all an allegory for the assassin to pay penance for his past sins. Is he living or dead? It could be argued either way, as he travels quickly worldwide and garners few injuries. Yet, at the heart of the discussion, it may leave people wondering if these spiritual places are real. It is a question that people have addressed throughout history and is expressed in various forms in many world religions.
The Bible does address the subject of heaven and hell. Both are real places with a clear path to both destinations, while the road to heaven may surprise many. There is a profound grace to the entry that comes down to each individual deciding where they want to spend eternity. Hell is a place of eternal separation from God, where no one should desire to reside. Thankfully the words of God share how to avoid going there. Instead, people can consider the words of Paul in the book of Romans when he says, ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.