“Get up, Keanu!”
Plain wailing came from the audience more than once at Monday’s surprise North American premiere of “John Wick: Chapter 4” at the South by Southwest Film and Television Festival. The marquee outside Austin’s Paramount Theater may have read “Baba Yaga” before the screening, but the packed, frenzied audience knew what they were there to see.
Director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves were there with the film, another action-packed, flying fists, and gun-firing epic set within the world of the High Table. And the man at the center of it all returned the love.
Thank you for that experience. You guys are amazing,” Reeves told the crowd after the screening.
There was applause as the story progressed from New York to the deserts of the Middle East, from Berlin to Paris. Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne and Lance Reddick return to their roles from the previous films. New to this outing are Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama, Shamier Anderson, Clancy Brown, and Scott Adkins.
Caine’s Yen character, a blind assassin, seemed to be a crowd favorite.
Although the “John Wick” franchise is known for its over-the-top action, the story has always been based on unexpected melancholy. The new movie’s nearly three-hour running time leaves plenty of room to breathe and reflect even amid the many, many headshots.
When asked about his favorite scene in the film, Reeves chose a quiet character moment near the end, where Wick remembers his dead wife.
“After 8 years of playing the part… that was really special,” Reeves said. “And also making the movie after a few years, seeing Ian McShane and Laurence (Fishburne) again and working with this man again,” he said, pointing to Stahelski, “it’s almost like the beginning, like the alpha and the omega. And everything else”.
Stahleski added: “For me it was the first day that Keanu appeared on set. He put the suit back on and it was the first time we had been together again in three years. So it was pretty special.”
Another question about a particular effect on a spectacular long shot mapping the aerial geography of a house asked simply, “How come it’s 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.”
One question had to do with the momentum behind the ending – fear not, no spoilers here. Reeves said that during the development process they asked themselves: “What was the why?”
“It can’t just be, ‘Let’s do another one,’” Reeves added. “There has to be a reason, there has to be a why.”
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 in production within the John Wick universe, including a TV series about the hotel “The Continental” and a movie called “Ballerina,” starring Ana de Armas.
When asked if John Wick would appear in the series, Stahelski responded with a maybe, while Reeves said no. Reeves added that he will make a cameo in “Ballerina.”
One question for Reeves was simply, “Are you old?”
“Yeah man, I get old,” Reeves said. “It’s happening, man.”