Rina Sawayama Slaughters Everyone in ‘John Wick 4’ (And Looks Amazing Doing It)

·5 min read
Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Lionsgate
Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Lionsgate

John Wick may have just found a killer new character to take over the entire franchise. Her name? Akira, played by pop songstress Rina Sawayama.

(Spoilers ahead for John Wick: Chapter 4.)

Akira serves as the concierge at the Osaka Continental, the Japanese version of the New York hotel for assassins run by Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada). Shimazu, who is Akira’s father, is a close ally of John Wick (Keanu Reeves); he agrees to take in the hitman even after he’s deemed “excommunicado” from the global circle of assassins.

That’s a good friend. Perhaps too good, Akira argues, as she demands her father remove John from the hotel and sever ties with the dangerous assassin immediately. Shimazu rejects her plan, hiding John in the hotel until a mob of High Table killers show up to kill him—and anyone protecting him too.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>From left, Rina Sawayama and Hiroyuki Sanada in "John Wick: Chapter 4".</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Murray Close/Lionsgate</div>

From left, Rina Sawayama and Hiroyuki Sanada in "John Wick: Chapter 4".

Murray Close/Lionsgate

Akira is peeved. Rightfully so! Though John and her father have been longtime allies, this random guy (who is known for nothing more than to kill everything around him) has shown up at her hotel, put her father in danger, and made her do all the work in cleaning up the assassins of the High Table. Men do nothing but cause drama.

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Alas, when push comes to shove, Akira is ready to fight back. She and John fight alongside the Osaka Continental security (every hotel should come with a throng of samurai, just in case)—Akira is reluctant, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to hold back on flaunting any of her sword-wielding prowess. There’s a reason her hair is slicked back into a sleek low ’do: to keep any loose tendrils out of her face, while spearing menacing big guys in the neck.

By far, Sawayama’s best scene in the movie involves Akira knotting her entire body around one of the killers, looping her tiny arms and legs around this big lug of a man. Have you ever seen a human pretzel? Well, I hadn’t before I watched John Wick: Chapter 4. And though there’s no one to compare her to, I’d say Sawayama is the best human pretzel ever. She laces her legs around the killer’s arms, their neck, squeezing them with her small (yet muscular!) arms and stabbing them all over.

Then, because stairs are an incredibly important part of this movie—we see one of John’s biggest battles ever on a staircase later on—Akira has to take the scuffle upward when the High Table man starts to run away, up a large staircase. Instead of allowing him to get away, Akira chases him up the stairs, latching herself onto his back while jabbing him over and over and over again, in the legs, in the back, in the groin, in the neck. No part of him is left unscathed, when the man falls over and Akira pounces away from her kill.

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<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Rina Sawayama as Akira Shimazu in John Wick: Chapter 4.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Murray Close/Lionsgate</div>

Rina Sawayama as Akira Shimazu in John Wick: Chapter 4.

Murray Close/Lionsgate

There’s plenty to rave about when it comes to Akira’s kills—there are a lot, and they’re all annihilating—but there’s also something to be said about the tenderness Sawayama brings to her scene-stealing role. Though she’s only in the first half of the movie, the new actress shows how much her character truly cares for the hotel and her father; the role proves to be deeper than just a killer with major sword skills. But that’s the appeal of the entire John Wick franchise, isn’t it?

More pop-stars have been eyeing their big breakthrough roles akin to Sawayama’s in John Wick: Chapter 4. Billie Eilish just blew everyone away in Swarm, starring as a calm cult leader in the series that may or may not be about avid Beyoncé fans. Halsey is also set to make her acting debut in Americana, as another cult-related character. And Megan Thee Stallion is currently in talks to star in a new movie from the Safdie Brothers, who brought us hits like Uncut Gems and Good Time.

This trend isn’t new. Musicians made the transition to the big screen when Barbra Streisand starred in Funny Girl, Madonna starred in Desperately Seeking Susan, and Cher starred in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. (No, it was not Moonstruck nor Silkwood that did it—we pin everything to the Mamma Mia universe.) Perhaps this opportunity for pop stars to break it big in Hollywood is on the rise once again. It’s certainly paid off in the last few instances. Why not get Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and Caroline Polachek lined up to star in our next blockbusters?

Billie Eilish Kicks Off Acting Career With Incredible ‘Swarm’ Episode

One last big spoiler: Though John Wick ultimately dies in the movie, there’s a final credits scene that opens the door for the franchise to continue with Akira. When hitman Caine (Donnie Yen) kills her father early in the film, she gives John an ultimatum: Either he needs to kill Caine, or she’s going to do it herself. When John hasn’t killed Caine by the end of the film, Akira arrives ready to do the job.

There are two John Wick spinoffs already in the works—one about the hotels, and one called Ballerina starring Ana De Armas. This is my new plea: Bring back Akira/Sawayama for at least one of those! Or, better yet, make another spinoff entirely about her war with Caine. Either way, Sawayama has proven she’s an action movie star to be watched.

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