After a four year absence, John Wick: Chapter 4 has brought our favourite hitman back to the big screen – guns fully blazing, of course – and also delivers a shock ending to the fourth instalment of the successful movie series.
Picking up from the events of 2019’s John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, the box office hit follows former assassin John (Keanu Reeves) as he deals with the contract on his life that was put out on him at the end of Chapter 2. Now, it seems the whole world and his wife are after John, including blind, retired, but very determined assassin Caine (Donnie Yen).
He is forced into hunting down John on the instructions of The Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), who threatens to kill Caine’s violinist daughter if he doesn’t comply.
Caine’s attempt to take down Wick in Osaka fails, thanks partially to an old ally, Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada), and his daughter Akira (Rina Sawayama). Meanwhile, a tracker named Mr Nobody (Shamier Anderson) stands by, as he waits for the contract on Wick to rise in monetary value before he makes his move.
Returning to New York, Wick meets with Winston (Ian McShane), who’s seen his precious Continental Hotel blown to smithereens and his concierge Charon (Lance Reddick, who sadly passed away before the film’s release) killed by Gramont as punishment for past misdeeds.
Winston reveals to Wick that, if he challenges the Marquis to a duel and wins, he’ll be free of the High Table for good. Finally!
Of course, there’s a catch: Wick can only duel on behalf of one of the established crime families, which forces him to reunite with his old clan, the Ruska Roma, and take out Killa (Scott Adkins), the High Table member who murdered the father of his adoptive sister Katia (Natalia Tena).
With that little sidequest complete, Wick, Winston, and the Marquis meet in Paris in order to lay out their terms. If Wick wins, he earns his freedom – while the New York Continental Hotel is rebuilt and Winston is reinstated as its manager. If Wick loses, he dies. So does Winston. And if Wick doesn’t make it to their agreed-upon location, outside the Sacré-Cœur Basilica at daybreak, then he and Winston also get a bullet to the brain.
John Wick 4 ending explained
The Marquis sees no reason to play fair and lets every killer, in every arrondissement, know that Wick has arrived in the city. Wick battles through the traffic around the Arc de Triomphe.
He battles through an abandoned apartment complex. And, finally, he battles up (and tumbles down) the 222 steps of the Rue Foyatier. At one point, he steps in to save Mr Nobody’s loyal hound from death. In return, the tracker switches allegiances.
Already beaten to a pulp, Wick is helped by Caine, who encourages his soon-to-be foe to stand up and finally face his fate.
At the Sacré-Cœur, Wick and Caine take their 30 paces and shoot. Bullets graze both their arms. Ten steps closer, and they shoot again. This time, Caine is hit in the side. But he is not felled. A final ten steps. They shoot. Wick collapses to the ground, a bullet lodged in his gut.
The Marquis, satisfied with his victory, snatches up a pistol and takes over from Caine in order to deliver the final blow. Bang. A bullet to the head. Our villain drops dead. In his arrogance, the Marquis missed the fact that Wick had never taken his shot. The Marquis is gone. And both Wick and Caine are freed from all debts and obligations.
Wick scrambles down the steps of the Basilica, only to collapse halfway down in a rather Christ-like pose. He dreams of his dead wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) – in a key piece of dialogue, earlier on in the film, Wick had stated that he’d like his gravestone to say nothing more than “John Wick, loving husband”.
He closes his eyes and the screen fades to black. Say it ain’t so!
Does John Wick die in Chapter 4?
Winston and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) visit Wick’s gravesite. We can see that his final wishes were respected – “John Wick, loving husband”. The Bowery King wonders whether Wick is currently in “heaven or hell”. Winston’s response? “Who knows.”
The trace of a smirk on his face is all that’s needed to fuel a hundred fan theories over Wick’s ultimate fate. And then there’s the well-timed cut to Wick’s pitbull – adopted at the end of the first film – suddenly snapping his head to look at something, or someone, off in the distance. He’s noticeably restless for the rest of the scene.
Could Wick have faked his death? For director Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves, they currently feel as though the ending is pretty definitive. Whether you like it or not, Wick is dead – for now.
“We had the opportunity [to do another film] because of the audience [response to] Chapter Three, and we were like, ‘What was the Why?'” Reeves explained. “And when Chad and I was talking, the Why? was death — and it was John Wick’s death.
“For him to get his peace, or freedom, in a way… that was the reason to make the movie. It can’t just be, ‘Let’s do another one’. It was really about death, or a way of dying. We were really inspired by the Hagakure.”
The Hagakure, if you weren’t aware, outlines the warrior code of the samurai and talks about how to live well to die well, something which Wick and Koji talk about before the big battle at the Osaka Continental.
Wick doesn’t believe he can have a ‘good death’, but his actions at the end of Chapter 4 might be as close as he can get: he saves a dog and the life of a former ally/friend, while protecting Winston too.
Of course, there’s enough ambiguity in the ending that Wick could technically still be available. Stahelski has also revealed that they had shot a different ending scene that was more ambiguous, and that’s why you see the dog look up.
Stahelski is more than happy to leave it up to the audience for now. “These movies are supposed to be mythological fables, and there are consequences. When you do bad things, bad things happen,” he told Rolling Stone.
“If there is another way for John to get out of this, or another way to have a satisfying conclusion to this particular journey, I’m happy to hear it. But you can’t do a whole series about consequence and fate without showing consequence and fate.
“You have to bring it full-circle. Now, did John allow that all to happen just so he could go back to John? I love films or books that are open to interpretation.”
So Wick is dead. Or maybe he isn’t. For now, it’s up to you to decide – or maybe it’s down to the box office, which points to John Wick 5 being more likely than ever.
That said, even if Wick were dead, that doesn’t necessarily mark the end of this story and world as Chapter 4’s post-credit scene mischievously hints at.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is in cinemas now.