John Wick is one of the few movie franchises around that has got continuously better with each new entry. It has come a long way from one man’s revenge against those who dared to kill his puppy, manifesting as an ultra-stylised world of underground crime, mythology, and scarcely believable violence. And it has all led up to this. John Wick: Chapter 4 is the feather in the series’ cap; a breathtaking moving of the action movie goalposts not seen since Mad Max: Fury Road.

Betrayed by Winston (Ian McShane) and left for dead, Wick (Keanu Reeves) regroups and recovers with the help of the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne). He sets off on a bloodthirsty quest to finally relieve himself of his obligations, setting alight – sometimes literally – those who always despised him for having the nerve to leave this life behind. What he doesn’t immediately realise is that Winston has been punished for Wick’s transgressions, and that the High Table have manipulated his trusted friend Caine (Donnie Yen), another master assassin, against him. At the head of it all is the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), who sees Wick’s demise as an opportunity to enshrine his place in history.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

There is no point skirting around the facts: this is a new benchmark for action movies. It takes everything great about the preceding trilogy of films and makes them look tame by comparison, throwing you back with sheer brutality, slickness, and imagination. Director Chad Stahelski still finds time for moments of humour and relief amidst the bone-crunching action and stunt work, never allowing the film to become too grim in its outlook. The result is a film to bask in and savour, as inventive acrobatics are matched with impeccable camerawork and choreography, switching perspective constantly to give the thrilling action a tangible dynamism and flow. For a film approaching a Lord of the Rings-esque running time, it never drags, knowing exactly when to turn it up and when to more solemnly contemplate the moral quandary of Wick’s actions.

The action is not the only eye candy on offer. Visually this is the most irresistible John Wick film yet, surpassing even the neon glee of Chapter 3 – Parabellum. From the stunning lights of the Osaka Continental to the more refined glamour of Paris and Berlin, Chapter 4 leans into what has always been John Wick’s strength: its worldbuilding. This hedonistic, unforgiving urbanscape of death and honour is seen nowhere better than during an intense fight in a Berlin nightclub, where Wick engages in an earth-shattering fight with the over-the-top Killa (Scott Adkins). Battling through impeccably dressed, seemingly oblivious clubbers and being soaked by indoor waterfalls that have no right being there, this scene is just one instance of how Stahelski has constructed a world not built on logic, but on instinct and violence. The result is an aesthetic that is quite literally to die for.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

At the centre of it all, yet keenly able to deflect attention away from himself where it doesn’t matter, is Reeves. Wick is a man of few words, yet Reeves manages to make him say so much with so little. Throughout the film, the pain and the desperation make themselves all the more evident as his world collapses around him, with Reeves channeling biblical levels of mental endurance just to live to fight another day. Perhaps the biggest delight however is the ass-kicking, turtleneck-rocking Yen, who revisits his time as Ip Man and as Chirrut Îmwe from Star Wars in spectacular fashion. The endlessly charismatic Shamier Anderson as the equally dangerous Mr. Nobody is also a riot, as is his faithful nut-munching mutt, while the steely Rina Sawayama as Akira is a sensation (albeit one deserving more screen time). Skarsgård meanwhile rides a fine line between ridiculous and genuinely villainous, his pomp and preening standing in entertaining contrast to Wick’s no-nonsense outlook. Praise also must be directed to the late, great Lance Reddick, who in his final outing is actually given relatively little to do but makes every second count.

‘When does it end?’ Wick is asked several times. The answer is here. John Wick: Chapter 4 on the surface at least definitively brings an end to Mr. Wick’s story. Whether it is the end he wants is an open question. What isn’t up for debate is that this is one of the standout thrillers of the last ten years, a film that lays waste to all before it. It is light years ahead of anything else daring to hold a candle to it. John Wick is an addictive blend of action, style, and passion that here come together for the sign-off that this phenomenal franchise deserves. It has served, and it will be of service.

John Wick: Chapter 4 releases in cinemas from March 24th.