How Joһn Wiсk: Cһаpter 4’s Hotline Miаmi-Inspired Sсene Wаs Creаted Detаiled By Cinemаtoɡrаpһer

Keanu Reeves's 'John Wick 4' gets a May 2021 release date


  • Cinematographer Dan Laustsen faced challenges in creating the Hotline Miami-inspired scene in John Wick: Chapter 4, including a small studio space and the need for precise choreography with the fights, camera, and lighting cues.
  • Keanu Reeves’ precision and multiple rehearsals helped overcome the challenges, as the crew built a big apartment set, conducted walkthroughs, and synchronized the camera, lighting, and actors like a ballet.
  • Despite initial doubts from the studio, the visually memorable Hotline Miami-inspired sequence has been well-received, leading many to call for director Chad Stahelski to helm a proper adaptation of the game in the future, given his talent for delivering high-octane action and his appreciation for video games.

Having pulled from a wide variety of influences, cinematographer Dan Laustsen details how John Wick: Chapter 4‘s Hotline Miami-inspired scene was created. Finally landing the opportunity to win his freedom from The High Table in a sunrise duel against Donnie Yen’s Caine and Bill Skarsgård’s Marquis de Gramont, the third act of the fourquel saw Kean Reeves’ eponymous assassin racing across Paris to get to the Sacré-Cœur as various contractors attempt to kill him beforehand. Nearly being cornered in an abandoned apartment building, John successfully takes down many of the Marquis’ men, partially with the use of a Dragon’s Breath-ammo shotgun.

During a recent interview with Screen Rant for the movie’s Oscars campaign, Dan Laustsen opened up about the creation of this epic John Wick: Chapter 4 shootout. The cinematographer detailed the challenges of capturing director Chad Stahelski’s vision for the Hotline Miami-inspired sequence, namely that the studio they were shooting in was too small, and that the entire crew went through multiple rehearsals before properly filming the scene. See what Laustsen shared below:

Yeah, the biggest challenge was he wanted to have a very, very big apartment, so we built it in the studio and the studio was too small. We didn’t have space outside the window, so that was the biggest challenge. And, of course, the choreography with the fights and the camera has to be synchronized, and the lights as well. Those three things, the cue from the light has to follow the camera and the actor, it’s like a triangle, where everybody has to follow it all.

But, again, Keanu is so precise, so it’s not a big deal, because he’s rehearsing it three or four or five times. We did a walkthrough, moved the camera in a spider-cam, and then we walked away. And the stunt people were doing a lot of rehearsals, of course, and we came back in the weekend to do the pre-light. And then we decided how, in the end, precise of where should the cues be, because we can change the lighting cue, of course, so that it was correct compared to the action. But the biggest challenge was there was no space, it was a huge apartment in a big studio, but that was too small. But, again, the choreography between the camera, the lighting cue, and the actors, of course, has to be correct and precise, like a ballet. They have to be there when the light is coming on, or the light has to come on with the lines following the actors.

Stahelski Should Make A Hotline Miami Movie After John Wick 4’s Sequence

Interestingly, despite being one of the more visually memorable moments in the movie, John Wick: Chapter 4‘s Hotline Miami-inspired scene nearly found itself cut by Lionsgate during its development. Stunt Coordinator Steve Rogers previously revealed to Screen Rant that the studio had a difficult time envisioning what Stahelski was pitching to them, leading to them frequently asking for it to be excised from his plans for the sequel:

…because if you’ve never seen it before you have to have a visionary person to develop it. So most studio executives are not visionary and that’s why they do their job and Chad Stahelski does his job. So to try to describe it to them you’re like, “No it’ll be really cool.” And they’re like, “This doesn’t make any sense to me.

With it having proven to be such an exciting sequence, many have since called for Stahelski to get behind the helm for a proper Hotline Miami adaptation. Across the four John Wick movies, as well as his prior work as a stuntman and stunt coordinator, the director has consistently proven his capability for delivering high-octane action that blends both gun play and hand-to-hand combat. Additionally, with Stahelski currently forging ahead with his Ghost of Tsushima movie adaptation, it’s clear he is just as invested in the field of video games as he is in filmmaking.

The John Wick: Chapter 4 sequence clearly displayed his grip on not just replicating Hotline Miami‘s style, but delivering legible action and meaningful story across the various steps. The 2012 indie game didn’t just unleash players on various maps for destruction, but instead invited strategy to take down the various enemies populating the settings, something that fits nicely with Stahelski’s approach to the Reeves-led movies thus far. Additionally, its synth-like soundtrack and neon-inspired visuals feel perfectly suited for the director’s sensibilities, making it a project he should consider after his work on the Henry Cavill Highlander reboot and Ghost of Tsushima have completed.

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