Ultimate action is safe with John Wick and crew keeping the genre alive.
Making its USA premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, Keanu Reeves and Chad Stahelski stood on stage to a thunderous amount of applause. Applause that made me remember why I love movies, and more specifically, ultimate action movies in particular.
You can see the love they have for this little franchise that could that leapt from almost DTV origins, to one of the biggest action brands in film history. And, if you get the chance, I would 100% recommend watching John Wick: Chapter 4 on the biggest screen possible and with the biggest crowd of action fans as you can.
John Wick Does What J-Wick Does Best
John Wick is back and, like always, he’s out for revenge. People want to kill him. Syndicates with tribunals and an endless amount of hired assassins make vain attempts to hunt him down, but in the end John Wick is John Wick — and the carnage is endless.
I’ve never personally been a huge stickler for keeping up with the plots of the John Wick movies. Walking in to JW4 I don’t think I could have told you any of the main plot points from JW2 or JW3 without doing some quick googling first to refresh. But in general, I kind of like it that way.
John Wick 4 picks up presumably where JW3 leaves off. With John Wick on the run and fighting to both stay alive, as well as ever-continuously get revenge for the crimes against him as outlined in the first film. I don’t want to say the plot doesn’t matter, because it works and is fun — and if you’re deeply invested in it, more power to you.
But from an action cinema perspective, it’s just fodder to build up to the action sequences, which — and I’m being 100% sincere here — are the greatest fight and chase scenes ever put to film.
Ultimate Action Set Piece After Ultimate Action Set Piece
I can’t begin to recount my favorite moments from the numerous fight scenes which unfold on the screen during John Wick 4’s nearly 3 hour runtime. We start with great ultimate action, we end with great ultimate action, and we have plenty of ultimate action along the way.
There’s new characters, new weapons and new quirks to every fight scene that continue to make everything creatively fresh and new. Nothing is ever re-hashed or feels like it’s done before. And it begs the question, why don’t other films take this amount of care to make their fights feel different and not like the same set combos of punch, block, duck and shoot.
Keanu is constantly in flight. And, even better yet, great action stars old and new like Donnie Yen, Scott Adkins, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama and Shamier Anderson bring fresh blood and different wrinkles and techniques to every sequence that keep anything from ever feeling the slightest bit stale.
Donnie Yen and Scott Adkins Rule Supreme
For a UAMC review of course, it’s impossible to talk about this film without going in-depth into Donnie Yen and Scott Adkins and both of their show-stealing performances. We’ll probably have more to say on this later, but I can’t overstate just how great both of these action legends are in the film.
Just the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to see several of their previous films, and write and read so much about them on this site, it just really hits home how much this is a film made by action fans for action films.
Both also get such a great vehicle to show off not only their action prowess, but both are also given really funny and fun roles that you can see them relishing with every quip and kick. There’s so much to love about their sequences that I found myself wishing I could rewind to watch them again and again.
Ultimate Action Has New Life Once Again
Probably my biggest takeaway from this film premiere was just how enjoyable action films truly can be. I’ve been to many film screenings at festivals like SXSW over the years, and there’s always great comradery in the air as film fans get to cheer, gasp, boo and erupt in laughter together. It’s the best feeling in the world to be a part of, and I can only imagine how it feels for Keanu Reeves and Chad Stahelski standing backstage.
For a long while I’ve been torn on what the future of ultimate action might truly be. On one hand there are so few action films out there today which rival those from the 80s and 90s when they were flying off the VHS rental shelves. Yet, on the other hand, we still have major action (albeit sci-fi, adventure, comic vehicles) topping the box office marquees.
Yet John Wick feels like a true blend of the best of both worlds, and as long as Chad Stahelski and the rest of the John Wick action alumni association keep their love of ultimate action genuine and pure, it certainly feels like action movies are back and as ultimate as ever.