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Keanu Reeves speaks some vulgar Cantonese in ‘John Wick 4,’ delighting Chinese audiences

Keanu Reeves attends the L.A. premiere of "John Wick: Chapter 4" at TCL Chinese Theatre on March 20, 2023. | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Cantonese-speaking moviegoers around the globe were privy to a cinematic Easter egg of sorts in the latest John Wick movie. In one scene, Keanu Reeves speaks some profanities in that audience’s native tongue, together with Hong Kong film star Donnie Yen.

Reeves’ exact line of dialogue was “Ham gaa caan (冚家鏟),” a commonly used term that translates into “May your whole family be bulldozed.” The English subtitle in the movie uses “prick,” a rendering that may downplay its severity somewhat. In terms of its rudeness, the phrase is roughly on par with “You’re a piece of shit.”

Until now, "John Wick: Chapter 4" had largely been notable because of the March 17 death of cast member Lance Reddick.

Chinese-language media in Hong Kong have reacted in an almost giddy fashion, with a wave of celebratory coverage for Reeves, who is of partial Chinese descent.

In an interview with Singaporean media, Reeves said the idea came from his co-star, Yen, who asked the 58-year-old star of "The Matrix" and "Speed" to swear back at him in Cantonese, which many Chinese-speaking audiences were not expecting to hear.

“I hope [my pronunciation] wasn’t too bad,” Reeves said. “I have to learn it on the fly.”

According to HK01, a local media outlet in Hong Kong, the audience in the theater burst into laughter during the scene.

Han Li can be reached at