Keanu Reeves (“Speed”) fights for his life again. The now 58-year-old Hollywood star is back in his prime role of recent years. Whether punches, pistol or machine gun salvos, saber rattling or Asian martial arts: In “John Wick: Chapter 4” no amount of opponents can get the professional killer down. Or is it? From this question arises the almost consistently lasting tension of the almost three-hour long action banger.

Corpses pave his way. John Wick has to fight countless murder gangs. Because the High Chamber, a kind of overarching organization of all worldwide criminal gangs, wants his death, whatever the cost. Underworld boss Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) has all the powers to assassinate the renegade comrade-in-arms of yore. But whether in the African desert or in France, Germany or the USA: John seems to be invincible and, above all, immortal.

Excellent fight scenes

As in the first three parts of the globally successful series, the fight scenes are the be-all and end-all. And they really pack a punch. They captivate formally as a sophisticatedly choreographed series of murders. Whether a single opponent or countless: Each of the excellently photographed battle sequences captivates with stylistic brilliance. The electrifying climax is a deadly car ballet around the Arc de Triomphe in the heart of Paris.

Like a classic Western hero, Keanu Reeves wades through the bloody horror scene with a stoic expression on his face. It is fascinating how his almost motionless face reflects his emotions. You can tell that the man is disgusted by the murder, that he is disgusted with himself. Rarely in film history has an actor revealed so much about a character’s soul with such minimal facial expressions.

Top-class line-up of stars

At Keanu Reeves’ side there is a top-class line-up of stars such as Laurence Fishburne (“Matrix”), Bill Skarsgård (“Barbarian”) and Donnie Yen (“Ip Man”). Above all, Donnie Yen inspires as blind Caine, once one of John’s best friends, now apparently one of his greatest enemies. Not only does Donnie Yen shine with sophisticated martial arts. He also manages to credibly convey an enormous personality change in just a few scenes.

In Germany, the murder spectacle has received the highest possible age rating of 18, which rarely happens. Despite all the pleasure in joyfully celebrated action, the film finally provokes an important question: Is it still up to date nowadays, when news of school massacres, assassinations and acts of terrorism are circulating around the world, to show killing as a pleasure in the cinema? Captivated by the cinematic brilliance, John Wick fans will agree. Many others may have doubts.

After all, in the almost romantically transfigured finale, the film urgently points to the dark underbelly of the world of John Wick and Co. And it releases the audience with a highly clever trick in the crackling uncertainty as to whether Keanu Reeves will be seen in his signature role for a fifth time or not. The star himself is reticent about this and has only tentatively hinted at a “maybe” in interviews so far.

John Wick: Chapter 4, USA 2023, 169 min, FSK 18+, by Chad Stahelski, with Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Bill Skarsgård, Donnie Yen