"Heartfelt Redemptive Moments Marred by Excessive Video Game Violence"
What You Need To Know:
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 has non-stop action. There are constant jaw-dropping battles between John and the hordes of assassins sent by the villain. The movie has a mixed worldview. There are positive allusions to Christian faith, plus some pro-family content, but they’re mixed with two agnostic statements. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 contains lots of very strong violence. It also has some strong obscenities. Overall, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4, despite its colorful characters, great settings and positive content.
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 is a violent thriller starring Keanu Reeves as the retired assassin who must defeat the vicious emissary of an international crime syndicate who’s been ordered to kill John Wick and the two powerful men who helped John escape punishment for breaking the syndicate’s rules. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 has non-stop action where John must defend himself and his two friends from hordes of assassins and a mixed worldview that contains some Christian allusions and profamily values, combined with references to agnosticism and humility, very strong action violence with a high body count, and some strong obscenities.
As the movie opens, John Wick’s friend Winston, the manager of The Continental Hotel in New York City, a crime syndicate sanctuary, finds out that John is still alive after the syndicate ordered Winston to kill him. The crime syndicate calls itself “The High Table” and consists of 12 crime families and their leaders, who sit at The Table. Since Winston failed to kill John, the High Table has sent a vicious emissary, known as The Marquis, to remove Winston as manager and destroy the Continental. Winston thinks the Marquis will kill him, but he kills Winston’s friend, Charon, who serves as the Concierge at the hotel. So, Winston secretly decides to help John, who’s next on the Marquis’ hit list.
The Marquis sends hordes of assassins to follow John and kill him. John kills the first group of assassins, then he flees to the Continental Hotel in Osaka, Japan. Like the hotel in New York, the Osaka hotel is supposed to be a sanctuary for members for the High Table, including members of the 12 families on the executive board. The manager of the hotel, Shimazu, whose daughter serves as the hotel’s Concierge, has offered sanctuary for John.
However, the Marquis has removed the Osaka as a sanctuary for John. So, the Marquis’ top men and the High Table’s top assassins descend on the hotel to kill John and Shimazu. Shumazu, of course, wants to protect his daughter, and his daughter wants to protect him.
Also, the Marquis has threatened the daughter of John’s friend, Caine, who helped John in the last JOHN WICK movie, to force Caine to join the assassins trying to kill John. Because Caine helped John in the last movie, he voluntarily agreed to blind himself as penance so he could remain a credentialed member of the High Table.
Meanwhile, the Marquis has doubts about Caine’s commitment to the job of killing John. So, he’s also agreed to pay another assassin, known as the Tracker, millions of dollars if he kills John. Although John certainly can take care of himself, the Tracker decides to help John so that he, the Tracker, will be the one who delivers the fatal blow.
Of course, with a little help from the Tracker and his friend Shmazu, John kills off all the assassins sent after him except for Caine, who kills Shimazu. John’s survival impresses Winston. So, when John returns to New York, he meets with John at the gravesite of their mutual friend, Charon, the Concierge at Winton’s former hotel. Winston decides to put in his lot with John’s against the Marquis, because Winston wants revenge against the Marquis for murdering Charon and destroying his hotel.
John is so angry he wants to kill not only the Marquis, but also every one of the 12 members of the High Table. However, Winston suggests to him that this kind of revenge is silly and unwarranted. He suggests to John that, instead of killing everyone, he challenge the Marquis to a duel. If John wins, he receives his freedom and Winston will be reinstated as manager of the sanctuary hotel in New York. If he loses, John will be dead, of course, but Winston will be killed. John agrees, so Winston agrees to set up a meeting between John and the Marquis in Paris, with a mediator from the High Table.
Before John and Winston part, Winston tells John he didn’t know what to put on their friend, Charon’s tombstone, so he just put the word, “Friend.” As Winston walks away, John tells Winston that, for his tombstone, he just wants the words, “Beloved Husband.”
John’s words recall the incident that started this whole mess, in the first JOHN WICK movie. That movie started with John enjoying his retirement as an assassin for the High Table. John’s wife had just died from a disease, but she had given him a dog to keep him company as he grieved her absence. However, the reckless, cruel son of one of the 12 members of the High Table had asked John to sell him his classic car, but John refused. So, the son sent a bunch of assassins to John’s house to kill John. John survived and escaped, but not before they killed his dog and stole the car. Killing the dog was like killing his wife all over again. So, John set out to take revenge against the son, which led to a feud between John and the son’s father. Things escalated from there.
There’s one problem, however, with challenging the Marquis to a duel. John is no longer a registered member of the international crime syndicate, the High Table. He’s been “excommunicated.” The only way John can be reinstated and legally challenge the Marquis to a duel is if he reconciles with Katia, the new female leader of his adoptive family in Russia, one of the 12 members of the High Table called the Ruska Roma family. Katia is actually John’s cousin. She agrees to reinstate John as a member of the family, but only if he kills the man who murdered her father.
John visits the large, popular nightclub owned by the man, who’s played by MMA champion fighter Scott Adkins in a body suit. Caine also shows up to the nightclub, as does the Tracker. Also, a team of assassins from the Marquis are on their way to the nightclub to finish off John if the nightclub owner fails.
So, the question in the second act of JOHN WICK 4 becomes, Will John survive the night?
Though it’s about 15-25 minutes too long, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 has non-stop action. There are constant jaw-dropping battles between John or some of his old friends and the hordes of assassins sent by the vicious villain, the Marquis. In two lengthy battles set in Paris, the Marquis has offered a $20 million bounty on John for any gangster in Paris armed with guns, knives or, in one case, hand axes. As with the other JOHN WICK movies, many or most of the battles involve a unique style of hand-to-hand martial arts fighting with handguns. Samurai swords are used in some of the combat scenes at the Osaka hotel. In one extended fight scene at the Arche de Triumphe in Paris, John and a horde of assassins must battle their way among a bunch of speeding cars. The filmmakers have labeled this extended scene as car-fu.
The movie also contains some interesting, fun twists. It also has colorful characters, unique situations and great settings. The actors deliver some stylish, and sometimes even winsome and humorous, performances.
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 has a mixed pagan worldview.
On the positive side, the movie has some overt Christian allusions, within Catholic and Russian Orthodox settings. For instance, there’s an Orthodox priest presiding at the rituals involving John’s two visits to his adoptive Russian family. Also, in another scene, before his final battle with the Marquis and his minions, John visits a church in Paris to light a candle for his wife. There’s at least one other scene set at a church, and the final duel takes place at sunrise, at the front of a famous church in Paris, on a hill overlooking the entire city.
On the negative side, the scenes involving Christian allusions include some humanist nods to agnosticism. For example, Winston is there with John after John lights the candle for his wife at the church. Winston asks John if he believes in Heaven and other Christian teachings in general. John answers “No. But, I could be wrong.” In another scene, a character asks Winston himself whether any people who die can go to Heaven despite the sins they might have done in the past. Winston replies, “Who knows.”
Thus, the movie has some positive nods to Christian faith where faith and the idea of Heaven are seen as good things. However, those positive nods come to humanist references to agnostic doubt, but, as John says about his own doubt, “I could be wrong.”
Also on the positive side is John’s stated love and devotion for his late wife. In that light, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 has strong pro-family elements. Not only is John devoted to his wife and wants to be known as a “loving husband,” his friends Shimazu and Caine are devoted to their beloved daughters, and Shimazu’s daughter is devoted to him. The movie doesn’t mention whether Caine’s daughter even knows about his existence. Friendship is another positive ideal that the movie promotes.
Also on the negative side is the world in which the story takes place. The fight between John Wick and the High Table, the international criminal organization, is a fight between a retired assassin and a bunch of criminals who aren’t retired. So, there are not really pure good guys in the movie. Clearly, though, the High Table and some of its members have wronged John. Instead of finding some way to find justice for John and restore his freedom from them, the High Table, its vicious emissary and some of its members send assassins to kill John. So, John is actually defending himself, and he’s also defending the friends who helped him. Also, John eventually finds a new friend to help him reclaim his freedom. [POSSIBLE SPOILER] Two friends who betray him eventually end up helping him to find justice and freedom.
In addition, the movie’s depiction of the High Table and its multiple layers reveals an organization that has corrupted capitalism for financial and personal profit. Thus, although the High Table has an elaborate set of rules, a code, to guide criminal behavior, it’s a set of rules that’s corrupt. As a result, the JOHN WICK movies, including CHAPTER 4, offer an interesting critique of what happens to a society when the society’s rules, laws or moral code no longer serves the average individual, but allows powerful elites, like the son in the first movie or the Marquis in CHAPTER 4, to cruelly mistreat other people for their own personal gain.
Finally, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 contains lots of very strong violence. The movie plays like an exhilarating video game, but with a high body count. The movie also has some strong obscenities mixed with some lighter obscenities.
Overall, therefore, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4, despite its colorful characters, great settings and poignant, positive content.
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