It’s no secret that I love the John Wick movies. I’m a huge action-movie fan and consider these movies to be the best ones in modern, western, cinema. I’m going to low-key say that this is because it, like The Matrix before it, draws heavily on Asian action cinema like the classic Police Story and the more recent The Raid. Vital to that is how much of the movie runs on the Rule of Cool: would doing something make this more badass? Then we’re going to do it. Why does John Wick speak Russian, Indonesian, Cantonese, French, and Latin? ‘cuz it’s cool.
It’s not just John Wick that gets to be cool in John Wick, though. Every character who’s not Random Henchman Number Four gets to exist in the same space as Wick. Other assassins like Adrianne Palicki’s Perkins, Common’s Cassian, and Mark Dacascos’ Zero all get their moments to shine (usually by going up against John Wick and coming out without getting their asses totally kicked). Even characters who aren’t fighters seem impossibly cool; Winston and Charon command the room with pithy lines delivered in a sharp calmness that belies a complete sense of control. The Adjudicator doesn’t need to say a word when they arrive in the third movie; their authority and coolness are immediately conveyed by the deference shown them by established cool character Winston. Like I said, this movie runs on cool, and in it, everyone gets to be cool.
So when John Wick 4 decides to let Donnie Yen into the fray you know he’s going to get to be one of the coolest characters in the movie. What’s remarkable is how much the movie gives him to work with, giving him a mysterious, storied past and his own array of one-liners that let him have the same clout as John Wick himself. Plus, despite being blind, he lays waste to low-level enemies with swords and guns; again, using the rule of cool to the fullest. He saunters into the film like a character out of a John Woo movie, and given his more-than-passing resemblance to Chow Yun-fat’s Mark in A Better Tomorrow, it certainly seems intentional.
That’s the other thing about the John Wick movies: they’re love letters to action cinema and martial arts. Bringing a boxer like Ruby Rose into Chapter 2 means she’s going to fight John Wick in a mirrored room that’s a neon-soaked rendition of Enter The Dragon’s climax. Cecep Arif Rahman and Yayan Ruhian aren’t just there to look cool in the third movie, they’re there to throw down in a fight scene that would make The Raid proud while breaking as much glass as a pulpy 80s Hong Kong movie. Wick briefly wields a pair of nunchucks in Chapter 4 because you always need more Bruce Lee homages.
There’s so much more I could go on about that make me love this movie (an early scene between Hiroyuki Sanada and Donnie Yen lets these two guys ham it up before a duel; when everyone’s wearing bulletproof suits, firearms become melee weapons; a shootout is filmed to look like a top-down action game). But what I keep coming back to is that John Wick Chapter 4 and the other movies in the series are just so damn cool.