John Wick: Chapter 4 – Soundtrack Review

Tyler Bates & Joel J Richard’s John Wick: Chapter 4 score isn’t perhaps the strongest entry in the franchise, but the addition of a full orchestra and a surprising tonal tendency toward solemnity do help to keep this particular soundtrack fresh and rather entertaining. I do wish the John Wick theme reprised a little more though.

The fourth chapter in the John Wick franchise is finally upon us after a four year wait, and with it another entry onto the soundtrack stage with Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard returning to score the film. Intriguingly too, the composers have claimed to have “upped the ante” this time around (per this handy Variety article) in adding a full orchestra to the traditionally much more instrumentally subdued music for the franchise. In prior entries an electric guitar was usually centre stage, with synths and electronics occupying the background (not that there was anything wrong with that, the composers derived some absolutely killer cues from that acutely unique action soundtrack combination) but now the music for John Wick is going bigger and bolder than ever before it seems with a full orchestra bolstering the ranks, and I for one cannot wait to hear what the composers have in store for us as a result. So, with the aforementioned in mind let’s waste no further time, and dive straight in.

The score begins with ‘Big Wick Energy’ (absolute masterclass of a track title, I must say). Deep, moody synth notes open the piece with morose strings playing gently alongside until about a minute in, at which point some particularly ominous-sounding deep vocals take centre stage until the track then draws to a moody close thirty seconds later. ‘Sand Wick’ then continues where this leaves off, with some rather Middle Eastern-sounding vocals opening the cue followed by moody synth. At thirty seconds in however action then leaps into the fray, with thunderous electronic beats leading the now rather frenetic pace and the occasional twang of an electric guitar hinting toward the main John Wick theme. The short subsequent ‘Change Your Nature’ then reprises those now pretty well known electronics from the first few scores to showcase the main theme, though its appearance sadly doesn’t last for too long here (just under two minutes). The main theme is then further hinted toward in ‘Wick In Osaka’ with those same electronics echoing darkly in the background in the first minute of the cue, though what sounds like a brand new theme (six notes) then takes over on downtrodden strings in the back half.

The percussive side of the John Wick theme reprises in the sub-minute ‘High Table In Osaka’, with a particularly emphatic electric crescendo being reached just before the end of the piece. This then brings us onto ‘A Grave Accusation’, the score’s first major action setpiece. At just under five minutes long, it begins rather moodily with serene strings, worrisome vocals and quiet percussion hinting toward a higher pace. This all then hits said pace at around the three minute mark, with the vocals becoming much louder and fever-pitched and electronic beats hitting the ground running at a furiously frenetic speed. Thematic hints toward Wick also reprise sporadically throughout this, with a note or two from an electric guitar sounding through every so often until the cue then comes to a pretty loudly dramatic close. Speaking of themes, ‘Grief On A Train’ then reprises the quietly ominous new motif from ‘Wick In Osaka’, though this time in much more sombre, almost sorrowful form on higher-pitched strings. This combined with some rather moody electronics makes for quite a serene cue overall here, but a pretty enjoyable one nonetheless.

The minute long ‘Of Mincing & Men’ provides further hints toward the main theme, with an echoing electric guitar sounding out the notes alongside dramatically imposing percussive beats. ‘A Grave Situation’ then peters the action away pretty much completely in its first half, with wistful vocals echoing a bitter solemnity throughout until similarly sorrowful strings then take over in the final minute of the cue. ‘Ambition And Worth’ then briefly interrupts the downtroddeness in stylizing a new set of vocals – this time much deeper, throatier ones which set quite an eerie tone throughout the two minute titular cue – before ‘JW, Loving Husband’ then reprises the higher pitched strings and vocals as the tone shifts back into more solemn, almost funeral-esque territory for just over a minute. The John Wick theme then reprises on guitar in the subsequent ‘Stairs Arrival’ and ‘John Wick Rises’ cues, with the score now starting to return to form as percussive beats and imposing, back-in-business electronics play through both of the just over a minute long tracks, hinting toward further action to come.

‘Paris Radio Intro’ just oozes style; loud, unapologetically upbeat drums and a thunderously epic electric guitar play centre stage throughout this minute and a half long setpiece, making it impeccably enjoyable as a result, with the cue’s only crime being that it just isn’t long enough. ‘Urban Cowgirl’ then kicks off the action fully, with increasingly tense electronic beats boosting the volume and intensity of the music pretty much throughout the entire track, with the occasional guitar twang for John Wick riffing through every so often until it all then comes to a crashing crescendo just as the track reaches its end. Thunderous action duet ‘The Ex Ex’ and ‘The Ex Ex Chapter 3’ then take over where the prior cue leaves off, with the former of the two tracks leaning heavily into the established thunderous rock side of prior John Wick scores and the latter – incidentally the standout cue of the score – then utilising the main notes of the John Wick theme in almost heroic form on heavy electric guitar twangs and loudly in-your-face electronic beats. The score so far has spent a fair bit of time just building up, so its great to finally hear the classic Wick sound simply unleash in these two action setpieces. One might even call it breathtaking.

As the finale of the score approaches, ‘Arc De Triomphe’ gets us off to dramatically rollicking start with thunderous drum beats and similarly emphatic synth undertones playing the main John Wick theme. The ‘Osaka’ motif then reprises at the start of ‘Pistol Procession’, with quietly ominous strings seeding a somewhat malevolent mood through the first minute or two before this then builds with grandiose vocals and orchestra rallying into an almost Western-eque musical standoff in the final minute of the track. You’ll understand when you hear it. ‘Helen A Handbasket’ however then completely flips the tone on its head; quiet, sorrowful strings and gently ethereal vocals are centre stage for much of the five minute cue here, with echoes of both the ‘Osaka’ and John Wick themes dotted at various intervals throughout. Final track ‘Cry Mia River’ then seals the album’s rather melancholic fate, with a singular string instrument playing the new ‘Osaka’ theme for the first thirty seconds or so until some moody electronic undertones then start to fade in about halfway through, slowly building in both volume and intensity until overtaking the strings and closing the cue out on a particularly ominous crescendo.

Overall, Tyles Bates and Joel J Richard’s score for John Wick 4 is an intriguing soundtrack adventure, I’ll say that. On the one hand, the composers change things up rather dramatically with the introduction of a full orchestra into the musical world of Wick, which does make for some genuinely interesting and rather entertaining stylistic choices at points (see ‘Paris Radio Intro’). On the other though – considering that they do now have a full orchestra, they do surprisingly little with it. It isn’t really used to bolster the action all that much, and there’s not a whole lot in the way of thematic material – new or old – to really utilise it, so it does kind of feel a little bit wasted at times. The orchestra also I feel detracts from the now classic John Wick sound – moody electronics & grandiose electric guitars – which combined with the general lack of themes makes the score overall sound a bit more generic than previous entries. That’s not to say it’s all bad though – the reprisals of the John Wick theme when they do come are pretty great (see ‘John Wick Rises’, or standout cue ‘The Ex Ex Chapter 3’ for instance) and the new motif first heard in ‘Wick In Osaka’ is decent too, I just wish there were more of them. Bathing in orchestral ambience is nice, but it does encompass a considerable amount of the album, leaving you a little wanting as a result.

All-in perhaps not the strongest John Wick score, but an enjoyable one nonetheless.

Score: 6.5/10

Standout Cue: 26. The Ex Ex Chapter 3


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2 thoughts on “John Wick: Chapter 4 – Soundtrack Review

    1. Haha, I just saw that on Twitter actually 😀 and it certainly did make my day. So happy he’s returning! And maybe, just maybe… we might get some earlier season expansions as well now. 60th anniversary and all, here’s hoping.


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