John Wick 4 Went All Out For Its Fight Between Donnie Yen And Keanu Reeves

Outside of his "Rogue One" appearance, Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen is best known for leading the "Ip Man" franchise, where he plays an exaggerated version of the titular Wing Chun grandmaster. The movies were big enough to transcend their Hong Kong roots and become popular globally, with bombastic fight scenes that made a point of going beyond standard combat choreography to play up the real-life Ip Man's legacy as a Chinese national hero — causing some controversy in the process.

The series had Yen's Ip Man facing off against everyone from 'Iron' Mike Tyson to British stunt performer extraordinaire Scott Adkins — who played a US Marines Corps gunnery sergeant in "Ip Man 4: The Finale." Now, Yen and Adkins will appear together in the upcoming "John Wick: Chapter 4," which looks set to push the Hong Kong action star even further than the "Ip Man" franchise ever did. After all, Mike Tyson is one thing, but Baba Yaga is the man who killed three men in a bar with pencil...

For John Wick's next orgy of violence, star Keanu Reeves and series director Chad Stahelski have been making a big thing of how much they "took it to another level" this time. Which is an ambitious goal for a series that basically invented its own high-octane form of action choreography, thanks in large part to Stahelski's background as a stunt performer and Reeves' bewildering commitment to doing his own combat and stunt work. With John Wick having to once again battle his way through seemingly never-ending waves of thugs and hired assassins, the series does look to have stepped things up this time. And that goes especially for the inevitable face-off between Wick and Donnie Yen's Caine, a blind assassin who sits at the council of crime lords known as the High Table.

Trying something new

Donnie Yen displayed his martial arts expertise throughout his "Ip Man" run. But with "John Wick," he'll be fully immersed in the series' unique form of gun-fu. The style, pioneered by legendary Hong Kong filmmaker John Woo, features heavily throughout the "John Wick" series, and involves gunfights interspersed with mixed martial arts. But Chad Stahelski and his 87Eleven Action Design company have pushed gun-fu to a level even Woo probably never envisioned.

Now, it's Yen's turn to have a go at the super-charged gun-fu of the "John Wick" saga, in a highly-anticipated face-off with Keanu Reeves' hitman that's been heavily teased in the  "John Wick: Chapter 4" trailer. And as Stahelski explained to Collider, the clash of two action movie titans required him to once again step things up:

"I can do the Donnie Yen triple kick. I can do all this, but you also want to do something different. So, you start sitting, you come at it from character, and you have a lot of discussions with the guys going, 'Okay, Donnie is amazing at this. Keanu is amazing at this. They're both great actors, so let's lean onto that, and let's do something we haven't seen before.'"

That "something" basically amounted to giving Yen a sword and a pistol, while Reeves used a samurai sword and a couple of handguns for the big showdown. Beyond that, Stahelski explained how he pushed things further by throwing in, "an AR-15 and a glass mirror room with Japanese artifacts," alongside, "a couple of dogs." All of which should combine to make a suitably spectacular set piece that draws on the gun-fu style of the franchise while mixing things up with the addition of the swords.

A long-awaited battle

In "John Wick: Chapter 4," Donnie Yen's Caine stands united with what looks to be the film's central antagonist, Bill Skarsgård's Marquis de Gramont. Wick is seemingly on the path to a full-on showdown with the Marquis, but it's easily his fight with Yen that's most anticipated. Reeves and Yen are some of the most committed martial arts and stunt performers in the industry, both with enviable on-screen legacies and the real-life skills to pull off a truly memorable fight scene. As such, their clash has been long-awaited, seemingly by Chad Stahelski himself, who is unapologetically a fan of both and claims to still be excited by "John Wick: Chapter 4" even after viewing it 100 times. Being a fan of Reeves and Yen made Stahelski acutely aware of everything both actors had done before in terms of fight scenes, giving the director a unique insight into what he could do that would make this particular showdown different.

The scenes from the trailers certainly look like we could be in for something special, and considering Yen is almost 60 years old, the shots of him dueling at high speed with Reeves that have been revealed so far are truly impressive. And it looks as though Caine and John Wick were friends at some point in the hitman's past, which should add a crucial emotional element to the fight, helping to enhance the action further. Now we just need to see Wick vs. 'Iron' Mike, and we'll be set.

"John Wick: Chapter 4" arrives in theaters on March 24, 2023.