Most of us like to say that awards mean nothing. It’s just a hunk of metal. The real achievement is the love that is bestowed upon artists. Yet, when the awards season comes along, we talk about the nominees who deserved it and those who have been snubbed with a lot of enthusiasm. Although I can’t speak for the artists, I think they like to be recognized at award ceremonies because that’s how their work reaches a wider audience, especially if it hasn’t managed to create any waves on a global scale. With all that said, the Oscars still refuse to make a category for stunts performed in a film while nominating a lot of action films and giving them awards. But without the contribution and sacrifices of the stunt performers, those movies would’ve been nothing, so they should be applauded with a little more specificity. Until that day arrives, all we can do is give shoutouts to these amazing people who fling, contort, and smash their bodies in painful ways. So, today’s big shoutout goes to “John Wick: Chapter 4” and the people that made it happen.
Major Spoilers Ahead
The Masked Japanese High Table Soldier Who Gets Shot In The Knee
“John Wick: Chapter 4” pretty much hits the ground running with the chase scene in Morocco. But it actually begins its action extravaganza when the setting shifts to Osaka, Japan. And although it features a lot of stunt performers dressed as the Osaka Continental’s defense system, the Marquis’ soldiers, and the High Table’s masked soldiers, the one that catches your eye is the High Table masked soldier who first gets tripped into the ground while being shot at by John Wick. He gets up while still being shot at by John Wick. When he tries to kick Wick, an arrow from Akira catches his knee mid-kick, thereby giving Wick the opportunity to double-tap him in the head.
Dual Sumo Wrestlers
As soon as the two sumo wrestlers showed up on the screen, I just knew they were going to do something awesome. Although they don’t really stay for a long time, they certainly make their mark by treating the High Table soldiers like a bunch of ragdolls. And, of course, their yukata is bulletproof.
Donnie Yen Punches The Osaka Continental Security Guard
Rumor has it that stunt performers in Hong Kong productions would get paid extra to actually be punched by Donnie Yen. I don’t know if that’s the custom in American productions, but I assume that it’d be an honor to be punched for real by the one and only Donnie Yen. Anyway, there’s this moment in “John Wick: Chapter 4” where Caine uses motion sensors to take down a bunch of people. Towards the end of the fight, Yen does his iconic flurry of punches and tops it off with a wind-up punch to the chin. And the stunt performer really, really sells it. I don’t know if those punches were real or not, but they were very convincing.
The Masked High Table Soldier Tumbles Down An Escalator
What you read up there is exactly what happens in the movie. It’s very random in the sense that you don’t get to see how he ended up tumbling down the escalator like that. You just see him cartwheeling in the most painful manner possible. But it’s a great stunt. In fact, it’s such a great stunt that the official TikTok account of Lionsgate used it to promote the film.
The Marquis Agent Who Gets Ice-Picked By Akira
Akira takes down a whole bunch of people with guns, arrows, kicks, and punches. But the one that takes the cake, and is apparently Rina Sawayama’s favorite moment from “John Wick: Chapter 4, is when Akira stabs a Marquis soldier with her dual knives. And when he tries to escape up the stairs, Akira uses the knives like ice picks and the soldier’s back as a mountain and keeps climbing over him until she reaches his shoulders. The cry that that man lets out before dying is both cathartic and hilarious.
John Wick Relentlessly Punishes The Two Masked High Table Soldiers
It’s tough to kill these High Table soldiers because they not only have bulletproof armor but bulletproof masks as well. However, for John Wick, that means he can punish them for a longer amount of time because he can hurt them with the most amount of bullets before killing them. So, in the glass-pane room in the Osaka Continental, Wick gets hold of these two poor guys and keeps shooting them every time they try to catch their breath. And when they finally think they’ve got a hold of the situation, Wick reaches their weak point and shoots them. One of the two guys even gets his neck sliced while being shot in the head, and the blood creates a beautiful pattern on the taiko drum behind him. It’s action-poetry in motion.
Everyone Who Gets Punished With John Wick’s Nunchaku
As soon as the nunchaku comes into play, “John Wick: Chapter 4” enters Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan’s action territory. Because on one hand, Wick displays the brutality of Lee’s style, and on the other hand, there’s an undercurrent of Chan’s style of action-comedy. One of the Marquis soldiers gets his head bludgeoned by the nunchaku. Another one of them gets hit by the nunchaku, kicked in the balls, and then shot in the head. The one that really stuck with me is the moment where a High Table soldier thinks he’s going to be hit on the head with Wick’s nunchaku, but Wick does a fake-out, and hence, for a split-second, the soldier stands there holding his head and gets hit in the crotch. And then Wick proceeded to tackle him to the ground while sending him through one of the many glass panels with hand-painted drawings on them.
Keanu Reeves’ Double Who Takes One Hell Of A Beating From Killa
I would’ve dedicated this section entirely to Scott Adkins. But technically, he isn’t a stunt performer. He is a prominent character in the film, and he likely does a lot of his work on his own. And that fatsuit looks demanding. So, kudos to Scott Adkins. However, an even bigger kudos go to the stunt performer who takes some of the most brutal beatings from Killa. One includes getting thrown twice, back-to-back. The other includes getting roundhouse kicked by Killa so hard that he drops down two floors while hitting an exposed pillar on the way down. The last one includes getting punched by Killa hard enough to do a full backflip before hitting the floor while being drenched from top to bottom.
Everyone Who Gets Hit By A Car
When the Arc de Triomphe showed up in the trailer for “John Wick: Chapter 4,” I was under the impression that it was going to fall short of the stunt-heavy sequence from “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” that was shot at the same location. I was wrong. Chad Stahelski hit everyone with cars and automatically topped the (understandably amazing) work done by Christopher McQuarrie and his team. It’s not easy to get hit by a car moving at anything over 2-3 kilometers per hour, I suppose. And the ones in “Chapter 4” were coming in fast. Some of those moments could have been a mixture of wire pulls, ratchet pulls, and cars shot separately and then composited into one moving image. But, even then, it’s a tough job because the ratchets are these cylinders with compressed air or nitrogen to create a momentum that mimics a blast or a car hit. If that’s not the case and every single one of them got hit by an actual car, they deserve a standing ovation.
Everyone Who Gets Hit With The Dragon’s Breath
Cool “Constantine” reference aside, the Dragon’s Breath is a mean piece of machinery whose prowess is displayed in an uncut, top-down video game-esque fashion. Getting hit with rubber pellets or faking a gun wound with wire pulls is a tough job, undoubtedly. But getting hit with a bullet that sets your body parts on fire. Now, that’s something. I’m merely speculating here that those sparks and the bits of fire on the stunt performers’ bodies were real. However, I could be wrong, and maybe only the sparks were real, and the fire was CGI. Even then, getting a bunch of hot sparks blasted onto your face looks daunting and incredibly risky.
Everyone Who Takes A Tumble Down The Stairs
“John Wick: Chapter 2” had a stunt where John Wick and Cassian took a tumble down a flight of stairs somewhere in Rome. And if you thought that was the most painful stunt of all time, you will be clutching your entire theater seat while witnessing Reeves and his double and the rest of the stunt team take some of the most insane tumbles down an incredibly scary flight of stairs. If I remember correctly, there were 222 steps. That’s 200 too many steps! Some of those performers were lucky to get to the slopes beside the stairs. I don’t know how comfortable they were because those slopes were cobbled and wet. At one point, Wick falls down all 222 of those steps. I don’t know how many takes that took to get that done, but despite being an atheist, it made me shout, “Oh God!”
Although we see just one dog alongside Shamier Anderson’s Mr. Nobody, it took three female dogs and two male dogs to make it come to life. And everything they do is adorable, scary, and amazing. I don’t know which of them peed on Chidi’s head, but whoever it was, they got everyone in the theater to cheer for them.
I am sure that this list (or love letter to the stunt performers) doesn’t even come close to appreciating everything that has been done in “John Wick: Chapter 4.” But it’s certainly a start. Maybe you have missed some of these moments, and upon a rewatch, you’ll catch them and appreciate the movie some more. I know that a lot of us who watch action movies all the time are aware of the underrated work done by the stunt department. If they are bad, they get all the blame for bringing down the quality of the movie. If they are good, the hero gets all the credit. However, it’s time to change that attitude. You are free to celebrate your favorite actors, directors, cinematographers, editors, music composers, etc. That said, when you see someone perform a complicated or a very simple stunt, applaud them. Stay back for the credits to see their names. Seek them out on social media and thank them for their contribution. And in addition to all that, tell production houses to pay stunt performers properly and give them awards to formally recognize their work.