And everyone wants to kill each other in “John Wick: Chapter 4,” a movie whose three-act structure is built around three gigantic action scenes that shift scope, enemies, weapons, and environments so swiftly that getting bored feels like an impossibility. As you’d expect, there is a deep pleasure in watching Keanu Reeves share the screen with Hong Kong action superstar Donnie Yen, and their scenes (both when they’re beating the stuffing out of each other or just talking) are a highlight of the film. An equally pleasant surprise is Shamier Anderson, playing a new character who is destined to be a fan-favorite (and whose loyal dog nearly walks away with the movie).
And while some returning characters don’t get as much to do as you’d hope (Lance Reddick and Laurence Fishburne just pop in to say hello, and Ian McShane’s Winston is largely sidelined), the film leans into Reeves and the newcomers with gusto, throwing them into action sequences that are destined to make stunt coordinators all over the world lose sleep as they wonder “How the heck did they pull that off?”
The final hour of the film is essentially one large action scene, and one staged with such bravura skill and visual wit that it exposes the vast majority of American action direction as the lazy sham it is. Stahelski, a former stunt performer and coordinator himself, knows how important it is to showcase these talented folks and make sure the audience can appreciate and follow their every action. That “every action” also involves staging choices that feel just plain unfair to every other action movie you’ll see this year strongly suggests that he is the finest Hollywood director of gun battles, fist fights, sword duels, and car chases working at the moment.