Tom Jolliffe looks ahead to John Wick: Chapter 4, with a cast that is shaping up beautifully…
With three films under his belt, John Wick shows no signs of hanging up his gun-fu weaponry, or retiring from judo throwing his way through hordes of enemies. The Keanu Reeves star vehicle, which boosted his appeal like never before, has performed miracles using some tried and trusted action formula, along with enough fresh twists and attention to detail to accrue a cult following. John Wick is now THE action franchise. The Fast films are about the cars (and the lunacy). Mission: Impossible is about the varying ways in which Tom Cruise will put his life on the line, and Marvel is about gravity defying heroes boosted by CGI, wires and stunt doubles. John Wick is a bit different. It’s squarely focused on telling a story through action with a heady mix of hand to hand and gunplay (and increasingly as the budgets rise, more eclectic action set pieces further still).
Even though it’s undoubtedly silly, with Wick as seemingly indestructible as even the most super-powered Marvel/DC icon, it’s still grounded in a world without superpowers. Additionally everything is made to look painful. Sure, Wick is indestructible, but he gets the living shit kicked out of him. He’s been hit by speeding cars at least half a dozen times in three films, not to mention shot off a high building. Despite the inherent F-U to realism, it still feels painful. It doesn’t feel looney tunes, like perhaps when Spiderman might get through off a building for example. Additionally, this Wick world has been beautifully realised through a combination of detailed world building, great design and exquisite cinematography. Further, Chad Stahelski, the stunt man extraordinaire turned director, has proven himself a director with a distinct personality and the ability to create something almost visionary (or perhaps revisionary). The point is, three films in, and things have been great and Reeves has actually never been better (there’s a hard edge, a gruffness and maturity that has cast asunder any sense of ‘whoa’ that had always tied itself in with his previous action work). Reeves can do intense now and he can do mean. Then you combine that with the kind of enthusiasm and dedication he’s always had.
There was an action geek dream of a cast for the last instalment with Mark Dacascos taking on villain duties, and bringing along a couple of guys from The Raid films too (Yayan Ruhian and Cepep Arif Rahman). Wick had a couple of epic fist fights with Common in the second film, with action star/reliable stunt actor Daniel Bernhardt in the original, but last time around kicked things up a notch and gave us the truest selection of face/offs thus far. Suddenly the Wick vs (insert martial arts star) became a thing and it would seem Stahelski et al are upping the ante in the fourth instalment. For one, Donnie Yen will appear. Whether he goes toe to toe with Wick remains to be seen (he’s rumoured to be an ally) but it still marks a sensational piece of casting. Here’s the thing…Donnie Yen in Hollywood thus far? He’s been wasted. Every action aficionado knows this. It’s almost criminal. What Stahelski has never done, when he’s brought in someone so skilled (like Dacascos, Ruhian or Rahman) is waste them. Donnie Yen will finally shine and you can take that to the bank (the blood bank… Seagal reference alert).
Hiroyuki Sanada is another great piece of casting too and he’s recently had some limelight on these shores after playing Scorpion in Mortal Kombat and appearing in Army of the Dead. Whether Wick finds his way in the far east remains to be seen, but the visual dynamic of the franchise so far would suit any major City across East Asia as a backdrop, whether it’s in Japan (more likely) or somewhere in China. He’d certainly make a fantastic villain, for a chapter in the tale, or as the main antagonist of this film.
More recent news has also teased the likelihood that Scott Adkins is signing on. One of the best of the best in Martial arts cinema, Adkins’ possible inclusion is an action fans dream come true. He’s still, all too frustratingly, under the radar. The mainstream don’t appreciate just how good Adkins is. From the standpoint of a physical performer, he’s superb and would provide a stunning obstacle to stand before Wick. As an actor he’s also highly capable, with the charisma to lead his own films successfully for the past 15 years. He’s a veteran now, but still carrying the sense of being young and promising, if only because his forays into big studio films haven’t given him the platform he deserves. It’s getting to now or never time. He’s doing great genre films anyway, in the video market (particularly his collaborations with Jesse Johnson, another stuntman turned director) but Adkins deserves a bigger platform and audience. In the action circles who know (which includes Stahelski), Adkins is highly respected, but for one reason or another it’s never quite happened. Stahelski in fact, appeared on Adkins’ popular interview series, The Art of Action. That felt like a door being nudged open and the mutual respect during that interview was clear. Just like Yen too, if Adkins does indeed sign on, he will not be wasted as a fighter nor an actor.
Who else might join the franchise? Wesley Snipes has been rumoured and would be a great inclusion. It may not end up being an action icon cherry picking game for the continuing escapades of Wick, but still, seeing a few action stars here and there would be exciting for genre fans like myself and everyone so far, seems to hit their A-game. Who do you want to see join the John Wick franchise? Are you excited about the prospect of Donnie Yen and Scott Adkins appearing? Let us know on our social channels @flickeringmyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due out in 2021/2022, including, Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Nick Moran, Patsy Kensit, Ian Ogilvy and Billy Murray), Crackdown, When Darkness Falls and War of The Worlds: The Attack (Vincent Regan). Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/