John Wick: Chapter 4 is one of the greatest achievements in action filmmaking that I have ever seen. I am not saying that John Wick: Chapter 4 is one of the greatest action films I have ever seen; however, in action filmmaking – stunts, choreography, camera movements, set pieces – John Wick: Chapter 4 is one of the very best. The credit belongs to the director, Chad Stahelski (John Wick), who famously worked as a stunt double for Keanu Reeves (Speed) in The Matrix franchise.
Throughout the 169-minute runtime, there were multiple moments where I asked myself if I was witnessing the greatest choreographed fight sequence ever caught on film. Chapter 4 rarely lets the audience breathe (in a good way) as it transitions from one action sequence to the next. When describing Kill Bill and its violence, Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) said, “Kill Bill’s a violent movie. But it’s a Tarantino movie. You don’t go to see Metallica and ask the fuckers to turn the music down.” I, along with the rest of the fanbase, are not going to see John Wick for its monologues. I want to see John take down an entire army of assassins with a pistol in hand and a dog by his side, and Chapter 4 provides that request and then some.
There are three major locations where most of the action takes place in Chapter 4: Osaka, Berlin, and Paris. Because of the jaw-dropping sequences, there are no wrong answers when determining the best scene. Most people are going to point to the nightclub sequence in Berlin as the most visually-stunning sequence, considering it required hundreds of extras to achieve. However, the one scene I can’t stop thinking about occurred in Paris on the stairs leading up to the Sacré Coeur Basilica.
Note: There will be spoilers below.
The Stairway to Heaven
In Chapter 4, John travels to Paris with Winston (Deadwood’s Ian McShane) for his duel with the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (It’s Bill Skarsgård) as he attempts to earn his freedom and settle his debt with the High Table. de Gramont selects the blind assassin Caine (Rogue One’s Donnie Yen) to fight in his place. The duel is scheduled for sunrise the following morning in front of the Sacré Coeur Basilica. If John and Winston do not arrive on time, they will be executed.
de Gramont wants nothing to do with John, so he places a $40 million contract on his head that night. Every assassin in Paris takes their best shot at John, and yet “Baba Yaga” defeats every challenger thrown his way. He even catches a break when Mr. Nobody (Invasion’s Shamier Anderson) stops his pursuit after John saves his dog from dying. After killing what seems to be an army of assassins, John reaches the bottom of Sacré Coeur, and only 200-some steps stand between him and his chance at freedom. Now, the fun begins.
As John begins his climb, assassins try to stop him from reaching the top by any means necessary. Bullet by bullet, punch by punch, John takes out every assassin hurled his way, continuing his climb toward Sacré Coeur. Predictably, he reaches the top, but before celebrating, de Gramont’s chief assassin tosses John back down the steps. In a film with riveting shootouts and elaborate swordfights, John painfully rolling down the stairs garnered the biggest reaction from the audience, as groans of shock and disappointment echoed in my theater.
The Secret Weapon
When all hope seems lost, John receives an ally in the form of his future opponent, Caine, who must defeat John in the duel to keep his daughter safe. But Caine needs John to make it to the duel for that to happen, so he agrees to join forces and climb the 200-plus stairs as a team. John climbing the stairs for the first time was exciting, but adding a partner like Caine to the mix takes the scene to a new level of entertainment. Reeves and Yen are two of the most famous action stars ever, and this moment mirrors my excitement when Rocky and Apollo joined forces in Rocky III.
This scene includes everything that makes John Wick movies special. The highly-choreographed sequences are nothing short of spectacular. The unintentional comedy is perfect, especially from Caine, who somehow makes stabbing another man a charming activity. Plus, the scene features an obedient dog who exacts his revenge on the de Gramont assassin that tried to kill it. Who doesn’t love a good boy?
When John and Caine finally reach the top, it’s a huge sigh of relief for all parties involved. The characters involved in the fight and the audience watching at home can finally take a moment to catch their breath. For now, the stair sequence is one of the most impressive scenes in the John Wick franchise, but that will surely change if John Wick 5 happens as Stahelski and Reeves will do everything in their power to raise the bar once again.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is now in theaters. For John Wick fans, read John Wick: Chapter 4’s ending explained, John Wick: Chapter 4’s best scene, 5 reasons why John Wick is the best action movie ever, and does John Wick die at the end of John Wick: Chapter 4?
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