What is left for John Wick, the grim reaper of modern fiction, to fight for anymore? Is it, as he says, the fleeting memories with his beloved wife, which at times feel like a distant dream, almost a fantasy? Or is it rampant, incessant bloodshed that gives him a sense of purpose to become willingly caught up in the destructive loop, as his enemies remark? After coming back from retirement to avenge his canine companion, the Baba Yaga is entangled in the deadly underworld intrigue, and as he tries to free himself from the death knot, the question keeps recurring throughout the fourth entry of the franchise titled “John Wick Chapter 4”. Which, by the way, has already proven itself to be possibly the pinnacle of the franchise, that is, if the creators don’t come up with another wound which triggers the Devil’s bloodlust. The enthralling, artistic settings of the fight sequences, the cadence of theme which matches the violence, the inventive camerawork, and lustrous cinematography bring the modern epic of the latest chapter of John Wick’s lore to life, but above all, the self-aware question keeps the viewers fascinated, emotionally invested throughout the runtime.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’?
As the movie begins, the eponymous anti-hero, John Wick, prepares for the upcoming war in the lair of Bowery King, making his knuckles bleed by punching an inanimate target, an outlet of his pent-up frustration and anger. Almost in a ritualistic fashion, the King, accompanied by John’s dog, recites Dante’s “Inferno” to motivate, or to be more precise, to goad John into the upcoming conflict. Indeed, the underworld arena is Hell, and the High Table’s past actions have pissed off the Devil himself. And the consequences are wrought soon, as John travels to Morocco to meet with the Elder, the all-powerful leader of the High Table, and asks him to return his ring, which he gave previously as a show of fealty, and grant him freedom, knowing full well he will never get it. The Elder, disinterested in bargaining with John after his treacherous acts, instead reminds him of his true identity as a killer, from which he can never escape no matter what form of freedom he seeks. John wastes no time in putting him down, and striking right at the head of the serpent to initiate the war is how John draws the first blood.
The Due Retribution
The first response of the High Table to John’s actions is clinical, swift, and brutal. Winston, the manager of the New York branch of the Continental, was previously warned by the High Table Adjudicator that proof of John’s survival would have dire consequences for the Continental and its caretakers. True to their word, the overseer organization sends their representative to act as the topmost official in the absence of the Elder, a member of the French elite noble family, Marquis Vincent de Gramont. Given the ultimate control at his disposal by the High Table to bring down John and his co-conspirators, the especially sadistic overlord decides to make an example out of Winston, making sure to remind all the underlings how the High Table deals with betrayal. The Harbinger, a top-ranking High Table associate, summons Winston and his loyal Concierge, Charon, to the Marquis and orders them to evacuate the Continental. The Marquis sends the message across that he believes that second chances are the refuge of the failed and demolishes the Continental, the place Winston gave his life to for four long decades, in front of his eyes. To add to his misery, the Marquis shoots Charon to death instead of him, increasing the humiliation, guilt, and agony manifold.
The Marquis assigns a retired, visually impaired assassin, who happens to be the finest and deadliest one in his gallery of manhunters, Caine, to hunt down Baba Yaga. A reluctant Caine tries to refuse politely, only to be reminded at once that his daughter Mia’s life could be in jeopardy for such bold decisions or, better yet, opinions because he hasn’t been given the option to choose. The Marquis offers his and his daughter’s freedom in exchange for John Wick’s death, and Caine is forced by circumstances to accept.
Meanwhile, John has taken shelter at the Continental branch in Japan, where his old friend Shimazu Koji serves in the role of manager, and his daughter, Akira, is the Concierge. The news of the fate of the New York division of the Continental and its Concierge spreads worldwide, and Akira is reasonably concerned that her father’s decision to harbor an excommunicado against the High Tables’ will is going to burn them, but Shimezu favors loyalty for his friend over his own life, and dismisses Akira’s concern. A tracker proclaiming himself as ‘Mr. Nobody’ boards at the Continental along with his loyal, fierce Belgian Malinois, who has managed to track down John’s location. After Caine, the Marquis’ right-hand man Chidi, and High Table enforcers arrive at the hotel in search of John, and a vicious fight ensues between the Yakuza members and the rest of them.
John manages to slaughter his way through the enforcers and engages in a battle with Caine, wielding Katana and guns, which ends in a stalemate. In the meantime, the Marquis keeps raising the bounty on John’s head to increase his chances of success. Mr. Nobody confronts a fleeing John only to back out, finding the bounty amount inadequate. Later, Shimazu stops Caine in his tracks to allow John sufficient time to escape. Caine reluctantly engages in a sword battle with another of his old friends and ends up in agony as Shimazu receives a deathblow by his hand.
The Old Ways
The Harbinger warns the Marquis regarding the gravity of his actions at Osaka, stating vaulting ambition could be the cause of his downfall. The Marquis meets Mr. Nobody, and after a brutal negotiation that gets the latter’s hand slashed wide open, assigns him to terminate John Wick. John meets with a grieving Winston and offers his condolences for Charon’s death. Knowing the Marquis’ whereabouts, John decides to journey to Paris to end the chase once and for all, but a pragmatic Winston reminds him that at this rate, neither the cycle of violence will end with the death of the Marquis nor will John ever get his much-desired freedom from this Hellscape. Winston advises John to challenge the Marquis to single combat as sanctioned by the Old Ways, which according to the rules of the High Table, cannot be refused, and if John emerges victorious, he will gain his freedom. In order to challenge the Marquis, John needs to be represented by a family that sits at the High Table. John used to be a part of Ruska Roma, the Russian crime faction, but ended up severing ties with them by using his ‘ticket’ during the events of “John Wick: Parabellum.” In order to reinstate his position in the family, John travels to Berlin to the Ruska Roma headquarters to meet with his adoptive sister Katia.
Return Of The Prodigal Son
Facing initial adversity, John requests Katia assist him in reinstating him in the family. When it is known that the Marquis’ orders let Killa Harken, the German mafia organization chief, kill Katia’s father, John suggests Katia join hands against the common enemy. Katia strikes a bargain as she agrees to reinstate John in exchange for Killa’s death. At Killa’s nightclub, John finds out that Caine and the Tracker are already present, and the four of them reach an impasse. It is decided then that the choice to pick who gets killed will be given to the victor of a poker game, where Killa unsurprisingly cheats and initiates a skirmish among his goons and the trio of assassins. After being ragdolled by the hulking brute for quite a while, John terminates Killa and earns the Ruska Roma family crest.
All In A Night’s Work
Winston informs the Marquis about the recent developments, much to the latter’s surprise. By the laws of the High Table, which even the Marquis dared not ignore, John was now eligible to challenge him and earn his freedom. In the presence of the Harbinger, the venue, medium of combat, and time get decided, and as a second to John, Winston’s demand of reinstating the Continental and his former position as the manager also gets agreed upon if John eventually emerges as the victor in combat. Marquis deals with his Trump at the final moment by electing Caine as the combatant in his stead. Later, Caine meets his old friend inside the Church and has a brief, honest conversation. It’s not much of a dilemma for him to choose between John or his daughter and his freedom, but he wants to convey that he was bound to act after getting blackmailed by the Marquis. John sympathizes with him, although he refuses to carry on the conversation and takes his leave. The dawn of the next day will decide the fate of the two friends in their gun duel at Sacre Coeur.
To make sure John doesn’t get to see the light of day the next day, Marquis increases his bounty, thereby attracting all the underworld of Paris to the open target. Even a delay in reaching the venue of combat in time will result in disqualification and eventual elimination of the challenger and his second, so John once again has to race against time. Through the night, John engages in a death battle with the combined might of almost all of Paris’ assassins and, with the help of Caine, eventually manages to kill Chidi, reaching the venue, Sacre Coeur, just in time. Meanwhile, the Tracker ended his pursuit of John after the latter saved his dog’s life, and the duo decided to be spectators of this upcoming battle of fate.
‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ Ending Explained – Did John And Caine Get The Peace They Seek?
As the fated duel begins, John and Caine both manage to wound each other using pistols and single bullets for the first two bouts. After a moment of trepidation, Caine fired first in the third round, and John didn’t, resulting in John being grievously wounded and falling to the floor. An overconfident Marquis saw this as his chance to make the glory shot and took the gun out of Caine’s hand, also sanctioned by the rules. The almost telepathic connection between the two friends sold the ruse so well that the Marquis failed to notice that John hadn’t fired his last round, which he is allowed to do still. As Winston timely reminds the Marquis of this, John gets enough time to put a bullet right between his eyes, killing the Marquis instantly and thereby winning the duel fair and square. Winston gets his end of the bargain, and the Harbinger also announces that John is free from the High Table’s clutches, as per the agreements.
Caine approaches a wounded John and addresses him as a brother, almost indicating this as a final farewell. Winston stands with teary eyes, with a mix of gratitude and guilt as he can sense what might happen next. John asks whether Winston is going to help him reach home, and at a loss for words, Winston somehow agrees. As a new day begins, John trembles down the stairs, getting visions of the life unlived from his memories of his life with his late wife, Helen. With a final utterance of his wife’s name, John collapses on the stairs, presumably succumbing to the wounds. Later, Winston and Bowery King meet at John’s funeral, with John’s tomb at the side of his wife as per his request, and also respecting his request, ‘Beloved Husband’ written on his epitaph.
As many of his peers and enemies remarked, John was doomed, cursed to a hellish life, and constantly entangled in the vicious cycle of death and violence. Even when he tried to leave life behind, the nemesis, fate, dragged him right back into the same place, making him doomed to repeat the ordeal all over again. The only escape from such an existence would have been death; his only way of attaining solace and a peaceful end was too much to ask of someone like him. But we aren’t quite sure that John will be allowed such an easy escape either; perhaps he wanted to delude others into thinking he’d breathed his last while he decided to spend the rest of his life in seclusion, away from prying eyes. A split-second shot of his canine companion getting excited after noticing someone would indicate so.
In the post-credits scene, we see Caine finally returning to his daughter, now that he has managed to free himself from Marquis’ blackmail and the High Tables’ commitment. Unfortunately, sins of the past don’t spare the best of us, and we see Akira preparing to take revenge for her father’s death by bringing out a knife while approaching an unaware Caine. The movie ends with this scene, and the audience is left with an open ending in both scenarios, speculating whether these brothers-in-arms truly attained the peace they fought for so long.