For the past three movies, it’s been John Wick against the world. The world is still very much against him in Chapter 4. However, the world is more divided this time around. Most of the assassination community is out to collect the bounty on Mr. Wick, but our hero has gained several allies. Some partnerships are born from loyalty, others from revenge, and a few from sheer convenience. For all the new characters in Chapter 4, it doesn’t lose track of John’s story, which reaches a turning point in the franchise’s most ambitious outing yet.
The death of one adorable puppy has amounted to a body count that’s at least exceeded 300 by this point. Wick won’t stop running or shooting, but the High Table is equally relentless. Bill Skarsgård plays one of the table’s most powerful yet punchable members, who enlists the expertise of Donnie Yen’s Caine, a blind assassin from John’s past. Even if he kills every person sitting at the table, there will always be someone to take their place and another assassin for hire. Finally, John finds a loophole in the form of a duel, which could either wipe his slate clean or mark his final resting place. Simply making it to the duel alive is half of the challenge.
While we love to hate Skarsgård’s Marquis, Yen creates a sympathetic advisory in Caine, who never loses sight of his respect for John. The film introduces several other antagonists who could just as easily fill the main villain role, including Clancy Brown as a composed operative and Scott Adkins as a grotesque gambler. John has support in his corner from fan favorites like Laurence Fishburne’s Bowery King, Ian McShane’s Winston, and the late Lance Reddick’s Charon. Somewhere in the middle is Shamier Anderson’s Mr. Nobody, who may not have John’s slick fashion sense, but their love of dogs is mutual.
John Wick: Chapter 4 runs the risk of bringing too many new characters into the fold, which also includes Hiroyuki Sanada as an honorable hotel manager and his daughter played by Rina Sawayama. It wouldn’t have hurt to save some of these players for another movie. This also could’ve made room for a few other characters to return, such as Anjelica Huston’s Director. At nearly three hours, though, the film delivers the precise amount needed from each character. Nobody feels underdeveloped, but we aren’t given too much backstory either. Sometimes, a short conversation or even a glance is enough to tell us about these people. Of course, the real star here is the action, which offers some of Chad Stahelski’s most kinetic set pieces to date.
Paris provides the backdrop for the film’s most ingeniously choreography sequences. A trip up and down the Montmartre stairs is equally hilarious and painful. Admittedly, there are several instances where our hero should die on the spot, or at least break every bone in his body. As improbable as some moments are, John Wick: Chapter 4 establishes early on that this isn’t just another sequel. The stakes are raised and nobody is safe, not even the most unkillable characters. Stahelski and company have created a world that’s expanded well beyond John Wick. Virtually any supporting character here could carry their own story. With multiple spinoffs in the works, it’s unclear how involved Keanu Reeves will be going forward. Whether or not Chapter 4 is meant to be a final curtain for the character, the franchise has breathed new life into Reeves’ career and the action genre. Chapter 4 is a high point for both.