John Wick: Chapter 4 (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Aug 02, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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John Wick: Chapter 4 (4K UHD Review)


Chad Stahelski

Release Date(s)

2023 (June 9, 2023)


Summit Entertainment/Thunder Road Films/87Eleven Productions (Lionsgate)
  • Film/Program Grade: C+
  • Video Grade: A+
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: B

John Wick: Chapter 4 (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!


The troubles began the moment that everyone lost sight of the fact that it was all about the dog. Hold onto that thought for a moment.

The John Wick series is a franchise that continues to expand, offering more outrageous action, more mythology, and more of the old ultraviolence with each and every film. Even the running times have expanded, growing from the relatively svelte 101 minutes of the original John Wick to a whopping 169 minutes for the latest installment John Wick: Chapter 4. There’s a fine line between giving fans what they want and pummeling them into submission, but for franchise director Chad Stahelski, no such line exists. His uncredited co-director on the first film, David Leitch, has managed to maintain a bit more efficiency on his own solo films such as Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, but under Stahelski’s tutelage, John Wick keeps getting bigger, longer, and more uncut.

One of the main reasons why is that the mythology that underpins the series has grown to swallow up nearly everything else. For the original John Wick, writer Derek Kolstad created a fascinating world that existed at the intersection between the Russian mafia and a secret society of assassins. As John Wick is unwillingly pulled back into the life that he had desperately tried to leave, Kolstad supplied tantalizing glimpses of how that it operated. Yet all of that existed at the margins, giving a just a taste of what felt like a fully functional universe that continued to operate even when it was offscreen. The sequels have all expanded on those ideas, arguably too much so, and the running times have grown accordingly. John Wick: Chapter 4 is the first installment where Kolstad didn’t have a hand in the script, with John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum co-writer Shay Hatten taking over, aided by newcomer Michael Finch. The convoluted storyline that they concocted continues to enlarge the mythology past the point of no return, to the extent that it essentially loses the plot.

That’s because as the series has grown, Kolstad, Hatten, Finch, and the other co-writers have all forgotten the single most important element that made the original John Wick work as well as it did: namely, motivation. The genius of that film was that it set up a situation where it looked like Wick would be motivated by the loss of his wife, but while her passing did provide an emotional backstory for him, his rampage against the Russian mafia was all about the dog. It was a uniquely effective way of triggering a revenge story, and it was a refreshing change of pace, too. Yes, the dog did represent a point of connection to his late wife, but the poor animal ended up becoming a motivation of its own—as Wick himself finally admitted under duress midway through the film. As the writers have developed the mythology, they’ve forgotten about the motivation, turning Wick into little more than a soulless killing machine, looking for nothing more than escape.

Killing is indeed Wick’s business, and business is very good in John Wick: Chapter 4. The action this time is more sadistic than in previous installments, with more of an emphasis on the finishing moves than on the action itself. That may seem like splitting hairs when discussing a film about the Baba Yaga, but Wick was often more pragmatic in the other films. This time, he goes out of his way to finish people who were already taken out of the fight anyway. All of the head shots, eye gouging, and throat slitting becomes numbing after nearly three hours of it. The fact that Wick takes a licking and keeps on ticking no matter what happens to him also reduces the stakes to all of the ultraviolence; suspension of disbelief jumped the shark once Wick walked away from falling off the roof of the Continental in Chapter 3. (After that scene, complaining about the absurdity of the bulletproof 3-piece suit in Chapter 4 seems a mite churlish, so let’s not go there.) The indestructible nature of the character means that if Stahelski and Reeves ever do decide to kill him off, it’ll be because the plot requires it, not as the consequences of any damage that he’s taken.

Still, there’s no denying the commitment that Reeves has to the role. He may be slowing down as he gets older, but he clearly trained even harder this time than he did for any of the preceding films. He might not be as quick anymore, but he hits all of his marks with extreme precision, and he always looks believable even when the action doesn’t. He’s aided in that regard by a crack team of stuntpeople, as well as some fine supporting action stars like Scott Adkins (nearly unrecognizable in a fat suit accompanied by a ridiculous accent) and Donnie Yen (unimaginatively cast as yet another blind character in an American franchise film). All of the action is competently staged, although the overwhelming quantity of it makes it feel more repetitive than it ever has previously.

The other new cast members include Bill Skarsgård, George Georgiou, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, and Clancy Brown. They’re joined by returning cast members Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, and Lance Reddick. The late Reddick’s scenes in the film gain an unintended poignancy due to his recent passing, and McShane remains as compulsively watchable as ever, but Brown definitely steals every inch of digital celluloid that he possibly can, and then some—seriously, how could it have taken four films and nearly a decade for anyone to think of including Clancy Brown in a John Wick film? John Wick: Chapter 4 would have benefited greatly from a firmer editorial hand, leaving every scene with Brown intact, but keeping nothing else off the table. Trim back the action scenes, reduce some of the repetition, and eliminate all of the unnecessary references to The Warriors and Lawrence of Arabia. Shorn of at least a half hour of running time, Chapter 3 would have likely been nearly as entertaining as Chapter 3 was.

Of course, none of that could fix the problem that everyone lost sight of the fact that it was all about the dog. A brutal mass murderer who used to work for the Russian mafia is hardly the most sympathetic of protagonists, but the dog at least offered something with which most audiences could empathize. Never forget: it was all about the dog.

Cinematographer Dan Laustsen captured John Wick: Chapter 4 digitally at 4.5K resolution using ARRI ALEXA LF and ALEXA Mini LF cameras with Master Anamorphic and Signature Prime lenses. Post-production work was completed as a 4K Digital Intermediate, framed at 2.39:1 for its theatrical release. The native 4K presentation on disc is outstanding, with nearly flawless delineation of fine detail. Every hair on every head, every thread of the fabrics on the costumes, and every bit of filigree on the baroque production design is resolved perfectly. That’s despite a modest bitrate that averages in the 50Mbps range and rarely rises above 70Mbps, no doubt due to the length of the film and the quantity of the extras. Yet it’s the High Dynamic Range grade that really makes this presentation stand out (both Dolby Vision and HDR10 are included on the disc). The high-contrast, neon-soaked aesthetic that’s been a hallmark of the franchise since the first film is a natural for HDR. It’s also a case where the consistently heavy orange/teal color grading is a strength, not a weakness, since it enhances the contrast and makes the visuals really pop. The blacks are deep and pure, and yet there’s plenty of detail hidden within those shadows. The colors are vivid and well-saturated, with levels of color detail that are every bit as impressive as the shadow detail. While it’s possible that a more robust encode could have improved things slightly, there’s no getting around the fact that this is a reference-quality transfer.

Primary audio is offered in English Dolby Atmos. It’s a suitably aggressive mix, with all channels being energized with the sounds of gunfire, clashing swords, raindrops, and the other side effects of Wick’s approach to the peaceful resolution of conflict. The level of deep bass announces itself as soon as the credits finish, when Wick’s fist repeatedly make contact with a training post—every punch lands like a cannon ball, to such a level that it makes even the Rocky films sound tame in comparison. That low end extends to the score by Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard, with the patented Bates bass synths adding plenty of punch of their own. If there’s one minor criticism to be made, it’s that the overall definition doesn’t seem quite as precise as it was in earlier John Wick films. It’s not that this track sounds muddy in comparison, it’s just that the mix tends to be as overwhelming as everything else in in Chapter 4—but that’s by design, so it is what it is. Additional audio options include English Descriptive Audio, plus Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, Spanish, and French.

The Lionsgate Films 4K Ultra HD release of John Wick: Chapter 4 is a two-disc set that includes a Blu-ray with a 1080p copy of the film, as well as a Digital code on a paper insert tucked inside. There’s also a slipcover that duplicates the artwork from the insert. All of the extras are available on both the Blu-ray and the UHD, and they’re in HD only on both discs:

  • Chad and Keanu: Through Wick and Thin (5:45)
  • Train Like a Killer (5:55)
  • Making a Killing (6:15)
  • The Psychology of a Killer (4:32)
  • The Blind Leading the Fight (9:18)
  • Suit Up/Shoot Up (5:41)
  • Packing a Punch (4:41)
  • One Killer Shot (3:09)
  • Killing at the Speed of Traffic (10:10)
  • A Shot in the Dark (5:43)
  • In Honor of the Dead (5:23)
  • Theatrical Trailer #1 (1:13)
  • Theatrical Trailer #2 (2:37)
  • The Continental – First Look (3:10)

They’re all brief featurettes that include interviews with cast and crew members like Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Shamier Anderson, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Scott Adkins, Chad Stahelski, and Michael Finch. They cover various subjects like the characters, the story, the training programs, the fight choreography, production design, and much more. (Yen does address the question of why he’s playing yet another blind master.) There’s quite a bit of material here that would have been much better served by editing them all together into a single making-of documentary, or at a bare minimum by offering a “Play All” option. There’s a bit of repetition in the interviews (for example, the same clip of McShane is used more than once), so it really would have been best to reedit everything into a unified whole. Still, the individual featurettes are never dull, and there’s plenty of interesting information here for fans of the film.

Speaking of fans, as with any franchise, aficionados will disagree about which John Wick installment(s) are their personal favorites—it should be abundantly clear at this point where my own sympathies lie, since it’s all about the dog. One thing that’s beyond dispute, however, is that the UHDs for all of them make fantastic demo discs, and John Wick: Chapter 4 is no exception. Whatever defects that the film may (or may not) have, there simply aren’t any flaws with this 4K presentation. It’s a gorgeous disc.

- Stephen Bjork

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