John Wick 4 starts with more of the same shoot 'em up action scenes that you clearly expect, but then it keeps building and building to a final hour of big, intense action that is absolutely incredible. The action is so visceral that it almost doesn't matter that the main character seems to be indestructible at times.
Still on the run for an unauthorized killing of an underworld crime lord, ex-assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is still looking for revenge against the High Table. The Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard), a senior member of the High Table, is given the task of finding and killing Wick with any and all means necessary. To take Wick out, De Gramont dispatches an army of assassins, as well as Caine (Donnie Yen), a blind, former High Table assassin and Wick friend. Also in the mix is the "Tracker" (Shamier Anderson), a bounty hunter with an emotional support dog. De Gramont also punishes anyone helping Wick.
The John Wick movies have complex rules regarding the criminal underworld, and it's these regulations that elevate the films from your average revenge plot. The quirky characters help too. What really makes the films work, however, are their visuals, like the extended fight sequences that show off the choreography rather than close ups with quick cutting. The use of color and light give the films the look of wonderful comic book panels. There are many shots in this fourth outing, a combination of Dan Laustsen's cinematography and some digital brush strokes, that are pure works of art.
Let's not forget the performances. With a simple look or gesture, Reeves adds pathos to his character, and Skarsgard is an effectively slimy villain. The final hour of Chapter 4 is insane, from a wild shootout in Paris traffic to an incredible sequence reminiscent of the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin.
Director Chad Stahelski crams his film with references to past movies that were obviously inspirations for John Wick. The blind assassin character is a nod to the Zatoichi series of films about a blind swordsman. A blatant homage to Walter Hill's classic movie The Warriors is the inclusion of a radio DJ, shown only in an extreme close up of her lips and the microphone, who reports Wick sightings during the hunt for him. Again, just like The Warriors, the DJ plays a cover of "Nowhere to Run," which was originally sung by Martha and the Vandellas. There's even a tinge of Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western in the score by Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard during the tense finale.
John Wick: Chapter 4 ends (?) the series with a bang.