Deadline’s Read the Screenplay series spotlighting the year’s most talked-about scripts continues with action franchise smash John Wick: Chapter 4. The fourth installment in the Chad Stahelski-directed series was penned by Shay Hatten and Michael Finch (based on characters created by Derek Kolstad) in their first turn with Baba Yaga — even if the titular revenge artist, played by Keanu Reeves, speaks only 380 words of dialogue.
From Lionsgate/Thunder Road Films/87 Eleven, John Wick: Chapter 4 sees the ex-hitman uncover a path to defeating crime lord council The High Table. But before he can earn his freedom, Wick must face off against a new enemy with powerful alliances across the globe, and forces that turn old friends into foes.
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The film is the highest-grossing of the franchise at over $440 million in global box office, and in May pushed the four-title series across the $1 biillon mark worldwide. It is also the best-reviewed film of the franchise at 94% certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
While Stahelski was initially satisfied to end the franchise with the third installment, he came around to the idea of a fourth following a conversation with Reeves in a Japanese whiskey bar, where they decided to tackle a version of John Wick in samurai-movie style.
The screenwriting process began that day, and the hope was to go for a different feel than ever before, very much leaning into an international story.
In discussing the process of figuring out action sequences, Stahelski, at Deadline’s Contenders: Film Los Angeles event in November, said the team knew early on that they wanted to incorporate “this Sisyphean metaphor of stairs” into the visual storytelling, as well as a chase sequence done in the round. “We always wanted to try a top-shot kind of thing. We knew we wanted to do a vehicular thing,” he said. “We knew we wanted to incorporate different kinds of martial arts.”
A great number of these sequences began as references to films the key creatives love. “If you watch a John Wick, we don’t look at it like a movie. It’s a love letter,” explained Stahelski. “So you can see Lawrence of Arabia in there, you can see a Jackie Chan reference. You can see Enter the Dragon, Walter Hill’s The Warriors. They’re all movies that we [love] from Bullitt to Point Blank to Wong Kar-wai to Zhang Yimou to Kurosawa.”
Billed as a swan song for Reeves in the eponymous role, John Wick: Chapter 4 may not in fact be the end. At that same Contenders event, Stahelski teased, “You never know … Keanu’s hard to kill.” Reeves will make an appearance in next year’s spinoff, Ballerina, also penned by Hatten.
Along with Reeves, JW4 stars Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Shamier Anderson, the late Lance Reddick, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins and Ian McShane.
Click below to read the script.
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