The Style and Substance of John Wick

By Felix Trenbath

For those who don’t know, the John Wick films are a masterclass in action, pushing the genre to its most visceral.

And John Wick: Chapter 4 is the … fourth entry in the franchise. The neo-noir thriller stars Keanu Reeves in the titular role as legendary hitman John Wick. In the fourth film we see him take on the clandestine organisation known only as the High Table, by shooting and stabbing and shooting some more in spectacular, balletic style.

The film is three hours long but never feels tired or played out. The universe that’s created here feels alive, taking the audience around the globe from Japan to Paris, New York to Berlin.

John Wick and his allies’ war against the ruling aristocrats and their army of highly trained super-assassins is a classic David and Goliath story that works brilliantly in a modern setting.

Though for all its accomplishments it doesn’t say much

Whether it be the nature of humans, violence, being yourself, or even just how there’s no better combo of a three-piece suit with a katana. Well, it does say that at least.

So this is really the only part of the film that could leave one wanting a bit more. The world is full of smoke and mirrors, and archaic rules that serve only those in power. It’s not supposed to make logical sense but it does make you think there’s got to be some deeper meaning or message about the real world. But in the end the world is really only there as window dressing for the (epic) beatdowns.

But hey let’s not make perfect the enemy of the good.

A critic could cogently argue that it’s all style and no substance

And this writer would clap back and say that what these stories do is portray such an enthralling tale of action artistry with such sincerity and talent that any lack of narrative meaning or a cohesive plot just doesn’t matter all that much.

The John Wick films, especially the first, have a reputation among film fans as some of the best action films ever made.

Making the case that great style can become substantial in its own right

The fight sequences in all these films are so masterfully crafted and choreographed, with actor Keanu Reeves doing his own stunts, you can always tell what’s what. The way in which the side characters speak of the feared hitman, the character of John Wick is an almost mythical figure. It makes for a very, very compelling watch and JW 4 ups the scale and carnage to deliver the best in the series since the first.

It’s great! Go watch it!

Featured image: Keanu Reeves gears up in the latest instalment of the John Wick franchise. Picture: YouTube

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