Nearly four years since the franchise's last entry premiered in theaters, the anticipation building before the release of "John Wick: Chapter 4" last Friday was reaching its breaking point.
And I am more than happy to report that the series has not only met expectations, its potential finale may very well be one of the greatest action films ever made.
The John Wick franchise has always been known for its own particular brand of action: expertly choreographed combat, tantalizingly imaginative takedowns, daring stunts and enough firepower to invade a small country. Its fourth installment builds on an already impressive foundation and takes it to new heights.
The film takes its namesake protagonist on a journey around the world to search for allies to help him take down the High Table, a nebulous organization that creates the rules under which the universe's global network of assassins operate.
Keanu Reeves' portrayal of Wick is as cool and steely as ever. And the performances around him shouldn't be overlooked either.
Donnie Yen was outstanding as Caine, one of the film's antagonists, always making sure to impart a nonchalant air to killing sprees that rival Wick's and pairing it with personality and comedic flair. Laurence Fishburne's intimidating bombast brought the Bowery King to life. And Rina Sawayama's performance as the daughter and concierge of the Osaka Continental's manager is garnering buzz all across Hollywood.
Wick's search for freedom from his obligations to the Table takes him from New York to Osaka, Berlin and Paris — sets that are not only meticulously orchestrated, but that allow for Wick and those around him to interact with them in ways rarely seen in other action movies. Ancient swords and nunchucks in an Osaka museum exhibit are used mid-fight. A rowdy club in Berlin (yes, of course there's a club scene) becomes a mazy arena for a fight with a German mob boss. The staircase to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre become a full-on gauntlet.
The directing by Chad Stahelski has also taken a massive step up, with some of it being downright inspirational.
The scene that immediately comes to mind is the fight in the abandoned building in Paris late in the movie's final act. Early on in the scene, the camera pans upward to an overhead shot — a satisfyingly smooth-as-silk transition that literally had me crawling up the back of my seat in excitement — and follows Wick and his foes from above as he makes his way through its myriad rooms, hallways and floors.