All good things must come to an end, and the “John Wick” franchise is no different. Coming off of three films of vibrant visuals and breakneck gun fu sequences, the titular Wick (Keanu Reeves) has very little fight and live for except for revenge, as he is determined to not only take down the leadership at the shadowy High Table down, but also beat them at their own twisted game.
Due to the events of the previous films, Wick is now “excommunicado,” meaning that he can no longer stay at the Continentals — hotels recognized as sacred, neutral ground for assassins. In fact, the High Table’s leader, the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) is applying that status to anyone he was close to, in an effort to destroy the idea of Wick, knowing that there’s no one in the world who can single handedly kill him. He starts with Winston Scott (Ian McShane), manager of the New York Continental, despite the fact that he shot Wick off a roof in the last film. De Gramont destroys his hotel and kills his concierge, Charon (Lance Reddick), but leaves Scott alive to prevent him from becoming a martyr. Furthermore, de Gremont enlists the services of Caine (Donnie Yen), an old friend of Wick who is blind, using his leverage of Caine’s daughter against him.
This incident sends shockwaves to the Osaka, Japan, Continental, where its manager, Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada), is harboring Wick. Caine and the marquis find out about this, and Osaka pays a heavy price, though it does offer some of the most stunning scenes in the movie, as the hotel’s neon lights offer a gorgeous color palette.
It’s also here when a third major player known only as “Mr. Nobody” (Shamier Anderson) makes a major move, He’s a sharpshooter with a vicious canine companion who occasionally helps Wick, while trying to extort as much money as he can out of the High Table for Wick’s assassination. Occasionally a danger for Wick, he mostly helps him out, as he also doesn’t want Caine or anyone else to collect on Wick’s bounty.
Wick quickly learns that his war against the High Table is unwinnable, as no matter how many he kills, they will always replenish their ranks. His only shot is to find a way to force them to give him his freedom. Winston, who wants his hotel and title back, becomes a natural ally for Wick.
The marquis also serves as a formidable foe — he often has Wick on the ropes by taking advantage of every resource at his disposal. In order to defeat him, Wick at several point has to put himself at the mercy of others, in which he easily could have met his end. The marquis’ biggest weakness is his hubris, which Wick exploits.
“John Wick: Chapter 4” is a bittersweet film on purpose. Its action never slows down, but there’s a heaviness clearly apparent to Wick, as each series of fights slowly wears him down. He is no longer the invincible killer he was in his first film. He’s also a character that has been stripped of everything he once cared for or enjoyed, reduced to the one thing that he can do better than anybody else: killing.
This notion is used to great effect, especially when he is contrasted with Caine, who is a man who still has something to live for when their conflict is over. Wick on the other hand, has nothing. Even if he gets his freedom, his life will have no purpose. In a perverse way, Wick needs his all-out war with the High Table, as it’s the only thing that can give his life purpose.
Seeing this series end especially in the particular way this film ends feels hollow, though it also feels right. In truth, Wick was a man that died as a character long ago; he walks and breathes, yet it’s hard to call the hell he lives “life.” Even if he is struck down, it’s just an irrelevant detail; Wick has had nowhere to go for a long time, and I think the filmmakers knew that.
I personally did not expect this to be the last film in the series, but it’s somewhat refreshing to know that the studio is not going to suck everything they can out of this franchise until there’s nothing left. They could have easily pumped out “John Wick” chapters 5 through 8, and audiences would have happily ate them up, but they decided to quit while they were ahead, which I can respect.
“John Wick: Chapter 4” gets an 8.5/10
Leave a Reply