John Wick Chapter 4, the neo-noir magic continues

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by | Aug 26, 2022 | Film & TV

A look at the creative team behind the John Wick phenomenon

John Wick Chapter 4 ‘Yeah, I’m back’

The first proper trailer for John Wick Chapter 4 is out now, and it pulls us right back into the neon lit world of the master assassin. It’s no understatement to say that the John Wick movies have revitalised the action movie genre and set a very high bar for other productions to emulate. The creative team behind the movies have a unique pedigree, their combined alchemy informing every aspect of the movies.

Director and Star

The director, Chad Stahelski, and leading man, Keanu Reeves, have a working partnership that goes back to the first Matrix movie in 1995. Stahelski, an experienced martial arts fighter and stunt performer, was Reeves stunt double – a partnership that carried on through the ensuing Matrix sequels and on to the point where Stahelski has become an accomplished director. His partnership with Reeves is so polished that we know John Wick Chapter 4 will be a real blast.

Keanu Reeves is, well, Keanu Reeves. Unique in Hollywood for being a genuine star and not-a-dick. Refreshingly he is an actor that can play ultra tough guy roles without looking like he’s spent 6 months with a personal trainer and eaten his own body weight in protein powder.

john wick 4 lionsgate

The pair have worked together creating a unique fighting choreography combining martial arts, street fighting and guns, lots of guns. Dubbed ‘gun-fu’ it defined the Matrix movies and has been taken to addictively brutal levels in the Wick series. But that’s what you get when the director knows stunts inside out, and the main actor has the level of commitment to realism that Reeves does.

Cinematography and Production Design

John Wick 2, 3 and 4 have been designed and shot by cinematographer Dan Laustsen ASC, DFF and production designer Kevin Kavanaugh. The hyper-stylised visual playbook of the John Wick franchise is a saturated night time world full of dense colour and reflections. The second installment in particular was obsessed with reflections, whether in the rain slicked streets or the actual house of mirrors that one mind boggling action sequence took place in. This is noir for the digtal age, super sharp and super saturated, the shadows are sepulchurally black and yet colours pop like candy. Laustsen’s attention to detail has no end, he actively seeks out scenarios that could so easily become visually confusing yet makes them comprehensible and an inherent part of the story. Interestingly he also shot the (slightly) more traditional looking noir in Nightmare Alley for Guillermo Del Toro – a movie that was cruelly overlooked in awards season

Here is an interview with Dan Laustsen ASC, DFF on his approach to shooting the John Wick movies:

The production design has elevated what could be a straightforward revenge story set in a world of assassins, into a fully realised universe of its own. You can feel a world mapped out within the walls of the Continental, a shadowy cast of characters that operate to a completely different set of rules to the rest of us. From costumes through to location you can see thought and creativity in every detail. On paper these films shouldn’t hold together, basically a long fight sequence with some car and motorcycle chases thrown in. But the visual flair and depth of detail in every set and prop make them deeply engrossing.

john wick lionsgate

Crucially what makes it feel a large world is that it pulls in different cultures and nationalities – it’s not US centric, so we have Russian ballerina assassins, Eastern European mythological references to the Baba Yaga, and Ian McShane bringing a razor sharp level of British class to his role.

There are plans for a TV series focusing on, and called, The Continental. Rumoured to be a prequel to the first movie that will delve into the underworld of the movies. However, Covid pushed everything back and details are scant on the status of this project.

John Wick 4 hits screens March 24 2023

Written by Iain Hazlewood

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