ANN/THE STAR/LOS ANGELES TIMES – “Get up, Keanu!”
A plaintive cry came from the audience more than once at a surprise North American premiere of John Wick: Chapter 4 at the South by Southwest Film and TV Festival.
The marquee outside Austin’s Paramount Theatre may have read “Baba Yaga” before the screening, but the packed, frenzied audience all knew what they were there to see.
Director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves were there with the film, another action-packed, fists-flying, guns-blazing epic within the world of the High Table. And the man at the centre of it all returned the love.
“Thanks for that experience. You guys are awesome,” Reeves told the crowd after the screening.
There were cheers throughout as the story made its way from New York to the deserts of the Middle East to Berlin to Paris.
Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne and Lance Reddick all return to their roles from the previous films. New to this outing are Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgard, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama, Shamier Anderson, Clancy Brown and Scott Adkins.
Yen’s character of Caine, a blind assassin, seemed to be a particular crowd favourite.
Though the John Wick franchise is known for its over-the-top action, the story has always been rooted in an unexpected melancholy. The nearly three-hour running time of the new film leaves plenty of room to breathe and reflect even amid the many, many head shots.
Asked about his favourite scene in the movie, Reeves chose a quiet character moment near the end, where Wick remembers his dead wife.
“After eight years of playing the role… that was really special,” Reeves said. “And also just making the film after a few years, coming back to see Ian McShane and Laurence (Fishburne) and to work with this man again,” he said, gesturing to Stahelski, “it’s almost like the beginning, like the alpha and the omega and everything in between”.
Stahleski added, “For me it was the first day Keanu came on set. He had the suit back on and it was the first time we were back together in three years. So it was pretty special.”
Another question about a particular effect in a spectacular sequence shot that maps the overhead geography of a house asked simply, “How is it not lethal?”
Stahleski said, “We have a very good stunt team and a very good visual effects team.”
Reeves added, “And months and months of planning. And training.”
Stahelski noted, “A lot of training. More than shooting.”
Many of the questions from the audience simply acknowledged Reeves’ longevity as a star and the deep connection he has with his fans.
There are other projects within the John Wick universe in production, including a television series around The Continental hotel and a film called Ballerina, starring Oscar nominee Ana de Armas.
Asked if John Wick would be appearing in the series, Stahelski hedged with a maybe, while Reeves said no. Reeves did add he will be making a cameo in Ballerina.
One question for Reeves was simply, “Do you age?”
“Yeah, man, I age,” Reeves said. “It’s happening, man.”