John Wick (4 stars)

John Wick

Elegant, exciting actioner marking a return to form for star Keanu Reeves

A dog dies. But a sharp-suited Keanu Reeves fighting the good fight is more than enough consolation in bonny existential action fantasy John Wick. A retired hitman mourning his wife (Bridget Moynahan), Wick's striving to keep an even keel. Reclusive in his modern fortress home, his newly calmed mind is a zen garden until something very bad happens. Wick must then deliver instant karma. Russian gangsters call him 'Baba Yaga' (the boogeyman), who’ll get you when you least expect it; that's disbelieved by kingpin’s son Iosef (Game of Thrones' Alfie Allen) who steals Wick’s precious muscle car and kills a puppy. A puppy!

Chop shop owner Aurelio (John Leguizamo) won’t touch the car out of respect, while John’s former boss, mobster Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist, having a good time), is torn between his son’s stupidity and the code of vengeance. Suddenly, there’s a bounty on Wick’s head and everyone’s out to get him, from his old colleague Marcus (Willem Dafoe) to hitwoman Ms Perkins (Adrianne Palicki). You know John Wick is a fantasy because there is honour amongst thieves, but this is one of Reeves' best roles yet: he’s cool, collected and applies his oblique style to full effect. The juiciest supporting role goes to Ian McShane as Winston, the deliciously scary-camp manager of a hotel for assassins (no killing on the premises, please), while Clarke Peters (The Wire) excels in a cameo as Harry, an old-school contract killer.

Directed by stuntmen Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (the latter is uncredited), John Wick is a stylish hitman-with-a-heart thriller crammed with satisfying action sequences. Shaky-cam is largely replaced by solid direction, innovative cinematography and terrific production design. This is a sleek, wet, near noir, with neon and shadows aplenty. Essentially, it’s really rather good. And there will be a part two.

General release from Fri 10 Apr.

John Wick

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 1h 41min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Chad Stahelski
  • Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe
  • UK release: 10 April 2015

John Wick (Reeves), a retired hitman in mourning for his wife, gets back in the game when mob kingpin's clueless son Iosef (Allen) kills his puppy. One of Reeves' best roles yet, in a stylish hitman-with-a-heart thriller crammed with satisfying action sequences, solid direction, innovative cinematography and terrific…