At a certain point, it’s fair to ask where does John Wick end? After three films, a body count in the hundreds, Keanu Reeves’ titular hitman killing people in increasingly creative ways and a mythology that keeps adding new layers to the criminal hierarchy, there has to be a limit to where things can go. And in John Wick: Chapter 4, the characters themselves now ask that. Several times Wick is asked where his fight for survival ends. 

The question of finality looms over the film. Reeves is back one more time as John Wick, the possible Marine Corps veteran and guaranteed legend known as the Baba Yaga. He’s trying to kill his way to freedom, up against the seemingly endless armies of the criminal legion the High Table. It’s a quest that brings Wick into contact and sometimes conflict with old friends (including action superstars Hiroyuki Sanada and Donnie Yen, the latter playing another blind fighter like in Rogue One). The result is a surprisingly rich story about comradery, family and weariness. 

It also is the best action film since Mad Max: Fury Road

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With a nearly three-hour runtime, the film never feels bloated or repetitive. From a desert chase to sword fights and archery shootouts inside a hotel, every piece of acting feels gripping and tense. Whereas the third film got particularly creative in its action — John Wick teams up with allies! John Wick manages to deliver headshots with books and horses! — this film leans to traditional fist fights and shootouts, but that doesn’t mean it’s less thrilling. One action beat in the roundabout of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe stands out, mixing classic John Wick gun fu with the ever present danger of speeding cars. And as with past Wick films, everything is clearly shot, with no shaky camera or quick quits to disguise the action.

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The film also has one of the biggest body counts of the entire series. Wick killed 76 mostly Russian mobsters in his first outing. In the second film, the number was 114. In the third movie, the number actually went down, with the Baba Yaga only responsible for 85 deaths, in part because he teamed up with allies including Halle Berry and the late Lance Reddick. The final hour alone of John Wick: Chapter 4 alone must match Wick’s kills in the entirety of the previous movie. The supporting cast gets plenty of their own very impressive action beats — Yen is a marvel to watch in a fight — but the action remains squarely centered around Keanu Reeves. And it’s glorious to watch. 

Even with that, the film is tightly constructed and paced. It strips away some of the more fantastical elements of the previous entry, focusing instead on a clear, less mystical adversary in the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard, clearly enjoying playing a rich jerk). To secure his freedom and protect his friends, John must meet the Marquis at sunrise in a duel to the death. It’s a clear mission, giving Wick time to prepare and ponder his life, but like all missions it has plenty of snags. 

For a series that nearly started off direct to video, the heights that John Wick has reached are impressive. Reeves and director Chad Stahelski know how to deliver both great action and stories that offer more than just shoot ‘em ups. The fourth film is the most ambitious and sweeping of the franchise and yet also the best since the first film. 

John Wick: Chapter 4 is now playing in theaters. 

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