The greatest modern action franchise outdoes itself [SXSW 2023]

And everyone wants to kill each other in “John Wick: Chapter 4,” a film whose three-act structure is built around three gigantic action scenes that change range, enemies, weapons and environments so quickly that getting bored seems impossible. As you’d expect, there’s a deep delight in watching Keanu Reeves share the screen with Hong Kong action superstar Donnie Yen, and their scenes (both when they’re fighting or just talking ) are a highlight of the film. An equally pleasant surprise is Shamier Anderson, playing a new character who’s destined to be a fan favorite (and whose loyal dog almost walks away with the movie).

And while some returning characters don’t have as much to do as you’d hope (Lance Reddick and Laurence Fishburne come over to say hello, and Ian McShane’s Winston is largely sidelined), the film leans into Reeves and enthusiastic newcomers, throwing them into action sequences meant to make stunt coordinators around the world lose sleep as they wonder “How the hell did they pull this off?”

The film’s final hour is essentially one big action scene, and one staged with such bravery and visual wit that it exposes the vast majority of America’s action direction as a lazy sham. Stahelski, a former stuntman and coordinator himself, knows how important it is to showcase these talented individuals and ensure that the public can appreciate and follow their every move. That “every action” also involves directing choices that just seem unfair to every other action movie you’ll see this year strongly suggests that he’s Hollywood’s finest director of shootouts, fistfights, sword duels and car chases working at the time.


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