I’m sure even Keanu Reeves knew he had to stop doing this shit to himself. For three movies straight, Reeves (aka Ted “Theodore” Logan, aka Neo, aka the most youthful-looking 58-year-old who ever lived) has been shooting people in the head all over the place — that is, when he isn’t being hit with body blows during the relentless action sequences that come one after another — as always-on-the-run assassin John Wick.
With John Wick: Chapter 4, I’m assuming this is the final chapter. (That said, the fourth Friday the 13th movie was called Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, but the serial-killer from that franchise eventually came back.) As amazing as it is to watch Wick take out muhfuckas left and right in the most awe-inspiring ways, Reeves and series director Chad Stahelski — the most stunt-crazy star/director duo since Reynolds and Needham — are running out of reasons for this guy to keep killing. The man who once longed to escape the assassin’s life has gone around the world and back just to off more people.
Not to mention, the dude should’ve been dead by now. I mean, the last installment ended with Wick being shot off a building and hitting a bunch of shit on his way down. And yet this one begins with him looking as healthy as he wanna be. Reeves and Stahelski picked up the unkillable-killer torch that Jason Statham and directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor carried with their equally wackadoo Crank movies. And considering how Reeves becomes more wooden and robotic with each new Wick film, it’s clear that Wick has become a killing machine who’s seriously malfunctioning and needs his plug pulled.
But before that, he’s gotta kill some more people.
The fourth flick has Wick inexplicably popping up in exotic locales (Osaka! Paris! Berlin! The desert — although I’m pretty sure that one was green-screened!), working his way up to this movie’s Big Bad: fancy-ass, High Table Frenchman the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (the always-punchable Bill Skarsgård). With his old allies Winston (Ian McShane) and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) aiding him in his journey, Wick plows through the endless supply of armed men the Marquis dispatches to take him out. This also includes an old blind friend of Wick’s (Donnie Yen) the Marquis extorts out of retirement.
Can I spend a few sentences telling you how much I enjoyed Yen in this? The Hong Kong legend plays his aging, tired warrior — whose name is Caine (he walks with a cane and he’s Wick’s “brother” — get it?!) as a lenient but lethal Zatōichi. Unlike his ol’ boy Wick, he would much rather be doing something else than going on a killing spree.
Since the first five minutes include an obvious nod to Lawrence of Arabia, this chapter is not only an epic one, but also the most referential. The climactic battle alone evokes the tension-ratcheting finales that Ford, Leone and even Kubrick did in their time. The action sequences are once again intricate, extensive and insane AF, complete with not one but two long overhead shots in which Stahelski gets his Brian De Palma on and captures Wick going from room to room, just blasting guys.
With this installment, Stahelski appears to be really hammering the message that Wick is a video game character you can just sit back and watch bring the pain. Cinematographer Dan Laustsen and production designer Kevin Kavanaugh (who’ve worked on all the Wick sequels) do wonders in making this look like the sleekest, most visually stirring first-person shooter game you’ve never played.
We know this isn’t the last we’ll hear from the John Wick universe. (It is sadly the last time we’ll see the character Charon played by Lance Reddick, who died last week at age 60.) Yes, there is a post-credits sequence that suggests we’ll be seeing some of these characters again, and Ana de Armas will be continuing the carnage in the upcoming spinoff Ballerina. But if this is the film where Baba Yaga puts down his weapon — be it a gun, a sword or a fucking pencil! — and finally goes to rest, he definitely went out with a grand, gloriously violent bang.