Pity the poor villain in this preposterously enjoyable final instalment of this gun-fu series. As ever, snazzily-dressed hero John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has been causing trouble for global secret society the High Table, and the new head of that organisation, the flagrantly highfalutin Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), wants John dead.
Unfortunately for the Marquis, all the men capable of killing Wick decide they’d rather keep him alive. That all the best warriors have a heart of gold is what makes the John Wick universe so cosy, with Reeves’ uncannily boyish charisma a crucial ingredient in the mix. Aged 58, the actor sports implausibly smooth skin, lustrous jet-black hair and even sounds young (he yells the word “Yeah!” with the same goof-ball enthusiasm he displayed in Eighties romp Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure).
Wick journeys to Osaka, New York, Berlin and Paris and it’s in Montmartre that director Chad Stahelski outdoes himself. Intricately choreographed scenes, including one that takes place on the 222 steps that lead to the Sacré-Cœur, are as wry as they are grandiose and offer pure, big-budget movie magic (though the blissful final showdown takes place “at sunrise”, it was actually shot at night).
The rapport between Reeves and the supporting cast is insane. Mixed martial arts legend Donnie Yen and Wynonna Earp star Shamier Anderson instantly feel like family, playing new characters Caine (a legendary hit-man, who happens to be blind), and Mr Nobody (a freelance “tracker”).
Hiroyuki Sanada and Rina Sawayama are also welcome additions, oozing dignity as Koji and Akira, a fractious but loving father and daughter team, running a killers’ hotel. Meanwhile, old favourites come up trumps. Laurence Fishburne is back playing the Bowery King as a mixture of Orson Welles’ Falstaff, James Bond’s Q and Gok Wan, while Ian McShane rolls his eyes in all the right directions as seen-it-all British sage Winston.
True, many of the fight scenes outstay their welcome. And the silliness can be wearing. The stunt work, too, is occasionally ropey (it’s obvious that the man in black, dodging the car traffic around the Arc de Triomphe, isn’t Reeves).
It’s also a shame that the wonderful Lance Reddick, who died recently, has little to do as Winston’s right hand man, Charon. Here’s hoping his cameo in the Emerald Fennell-penned spin-off Ballerina provides him with a more memorable last stand.
Just as importantly, if the thought of a freshly-chewed dead body being pissed on strikes you as unnecessarily sadistic, Chapter 4 will make you despair for the future of humankind (the crowd I saw this with went wild over that golden shower).
Either way, JW4 is going to be huge and, for me, it’s easily the most satisfying entry of the lot.
169mins, cert 15