Keanu Reeves in JOHN WICK

In John Wick Keanu Reeves plays an ex-hitman who comes out of retirement when a gangster steals his car and kills his dog. See the dog was a gift from his recently deceased wife. That’s not the type of thing an ex-hitman is going to turn the other cheek about. Especially when the dog arrived right after he’d laid his wife to rest.

To watch Mr. Reeves emote he doesn’t look like he feels much but that cute little beagle sure could steal anyone’s heart. So he gets into a routine with his new little companion that is rudely interrupted by a little gangster who plays Big Man when his posse is around to back him up. That guy, Iosef (Alfie Allen) decides that he wants Wick’s car when he lays eyes on it at a gas station. When Wick says it’s not for sale, the gangster and his men break into Wick’s home, beat him up, take the keys, and kill the dog.

As inciting incidents go, that is more than enough for us to want Wick to put the hurt on the runty gangster and anyone else associated with this heinous crime. The thing is, Iosef is the son of Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), and not so long ago Wick used to work for gangster senior.

And that right there is all the setup a movie like this needs. We know all the players, we know what’s at stake, we know who is chasing whom, and for what reason.

First off, this movie looks great. Especially that sequence in the nightclub – all red and blue and inky black – is a real treat to behold. The action is visceral and some of the gun battles are nicely choreographed. In John Wick the efficiency with which the lead character disposes of all that stand in his way is almost the stuff of video games and it is impressive to see it achieved in a live-action setting.

Mr. Nyqvist sinks his teeth into the role of the gangster father who must protect his worthless son even though he knows the snivelling brat is really not worth a fraction of what John Wick is worth. Alfie Allen also makes the character of Iosef so damned annoying it delivers nothing short of high grade movie satisfaction when he gets what’s coming to him.

Mr. Reeves is no longer at his action movie peak like he was in movies like The Matrix and Speed but he makes the sluggishness work for his character. The flashy moves of a younger action star, or Jason Statham, are replaced by the efficiency of a checklist of body (and head) shots he fires while taking down enemies. It is entertaining to watch in that visceral action movie way that doesn’t come around often enough any more. If you are in an action movie mood, John Wick is definitely worth checking out.