Keanu Reeves is out for revenge again in this week's new release John Wick: Chapter 4. The action franchise hits new heights of exhilarating mayhem as Reeves' titular killer looks to bring down the entirety of the High Table. That means lots and lots of awe-inspiring collateral damage set against some truly breathtaking locations including Osaka and Paris.
The John Wick series has always excelled at finding inventive ways to pitch Reeves against his on-screen enemies, mashing up elements of gunplay and martial arts in ways that are truly dazzling. Rest assured that the fourth movie doesn't disappoint, but before we get there, here are John's gnarliest kills from the franchise so far involving firearms, pencils and more besides.
1. Avenging Daisy by killing Iosef (John Wick, 2015)
Alfie Allen plays the snivelling punk son of a feared Russian mobster especially well, So, it's all the more satisfying when, after countless deaths and untold amounts of destruction, John Wick finally catches up with the creep and puts a bullet between his eyes without a moment's hesitation. This is sweet revenge for Iosef's cowardly execution of John's beloved beagle dog, Daisy, at the movie's start.
Let's not forget, Daisy was more than just a dog. She symbolised John's one remaining connection to his late wife, Helen. Iosef's diabolical actions help set the entire John Wick series in motion, unleashing the full force of the 'baba yaga' as he prepares to go to war with his former associates. It all starts at the end of the first movie as John ultimately kills Iosef's father Viggo (the late Michael Nyqvist), cementing his return to a life he thought he'd left behind.
2. Cassian's death (John Wick: Chapter 2, 2017)
The John Wick saga features a dazzling onslaught of fighting styles, from kung-fu to so-called 'gun fu'. That's the kind of rich stew you get when you mix up the hard-hitting impact of martial arts cinema with the enduring influence of the Spaghetti Western.
We never quite know with what weaponry Wick will be forced to improvise. It's a sign of his fearsome abilities that he can adapt at a millisecond's notice, as demonstrated in the sequel's well-staged scrap aboard the New York subway, which pitches itself as a close-quarters knife fight between Wick and associate Cassian (Common).
The series is refreshing in that Wick will constantly take his lumps, be it punches, gunshots or stab wounds, and yet always come out the winner. At the end of this gruelling bout, one senses that the soon-to-be-departed Cassian has grudgingly earned his respect.
3. 'With a pencil...' (John Wick: Chapter 2, 2017)
Here's a neat callback to Viggo's not-quite-apocryphal story about John from the very first movie. We sat in awe as Viggo informed the cowardly Iosef about John's ability to kill with a pencil. Well, in the sequel, we get to see the scenario play out in all its grisly, wince-inducing glory.
With all the world's assassins seemingly on his trail, John finds himself beaten down and badly injured but not out for the count just yet. It all culminates in a stabby showdown that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'pencil neck'. It was at this point that the John Wick character went from nifty anti-hero into contemporary action icon, a man capable of turning every situation to his advantage.
4. Santino's death (John Wick: Chapter 2, 2017)
Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio) is the first John Wick villain to point toward the existence of the High Table. (Need to find out more? Click here for the John Wick story so far.) He calculates his way up the chain, planning to get John to murder his sister in Rome and take her place at the elite 12-strong fraternity of criminal masterminds that make up the Table.
However, there's a problem. He needs to frame John in order to get away with it. Bad idea. After raising the bounty on our title character's head, Santino pays the price when he seeks sanctuary on the consecrated ground of the Continental Hotel. However, Wick is so enraged by the damage Santino has caused him that he executes the crime lord in the lobby, violating the golden rule and setting in motion his 'excommunicado' status from the criminal underworld.
5. Ernest eats his words (John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, 2019)
Not even libraries are safe environments in the world of John Wick. At the beginning of the third movie, John discovers a marker that will point him toward Casablanca where he aims to bind former colleague Sofia (Halle Berry) to his debt. However, before he can do that, he has to fight his way through the onslaught of New York assassins that have been sent to kill him after Santino's death.
There's an amusing and memorable appearance from Serbian basketball star Boban Marjanović as the towering Ernest. Despite John's attempts to talk him down, a typically brutal scrap ensues, resulting in the best use of a hardback book since The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007. That said, this is exponentially more gasp-inducing and nasty, proving once again that Wick always knows how to raise the stakes.
6. The human pincushion onslaught (John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, 2019)
Knives, blades and axes come out to play in this jaw-dropping scene from the third movie. It's one of the best examples of the saga's fluid and breathtaking approach to martial arts as Reeves, his co-stars and stuntmen are thrown into a convincing meleé of weaponry. One can sense Reeves' commitment to the bit in scenes such as this; we don't doubt for one minute that he lives and breathes Wick's deadly abilities.
This is perfect for the audience as we become even more immersed in the apparent reality of the sequence. There's a nice detail in how certain weapons bounce off the targets without landing, although Wick doesn't hesitate to deliver a horrific coup de grâce that re-affirms him as the dreaded 'baba yaga'.
7. Wick vs. Zero (John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, 2019)
One of the pleasures of the John Wick franchise is its tendency to import celebrated martial arts stars. In the fourth chapter, we're treated to the likes of Donnie Yen and Scott Adkins going head-to-head with Reeves. In the third movie, it's the charismatic Mark Dacascos who makes a vivid impression, here playing the elusive yet admiring hitman Zero.
He's a self-confessed fan of Wick's legacy, which makes their long-awaited beat-down all the more interesting to watch. We know they're pretty evenly matched in terms of their skills so it's simply a question of attrition, and wondering who will be worn down first. The journey toward finding out is a sinewy, glass-shattering delight, the sort of ferocious set piece at which this series excels.