A pretty incredible exercise in style, with a marvelously effective Keanu Reeves as the title character. And it’s the simplest of plots imaginable–but sonofabitch, it works. John Wick (Mr. Reeves), loses his loving wife (the briefly seen Bridget Moynahan as Helen) to an undisclosed illness. Devastated and alone in their sprawling beach front home, Wick eventually receives a posthumous gift from her…a puppy. But when a Russian gang member attempts to take John’s vintage 1969 Mustang, and later breaks into Wick’s house to get it, things turn violent fast. John is wounded…and the dog is killed. Big mistake.
Turns out John Wick is a retired hit man. A feared and excellent one known as “the Boogeyman”. And the creep who killed his canine is the son of a Russian gangster that John worked with in the past. So, what follows is a bloody, high body count, action thriller that recalls the early work of John Woo and the best of Michael Mann. It’s not complicated, but it’s such stylized elegance that it quickly becomes irresistible. Yeah, I wish the finale was a bit stronger. And some of the convolutions are eye-rollers. But this is a damn good, muscular time at the movies. And our now 50-year-old Mr. Reeves is fully up to the task. Throw in Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Willem Dafoe in supporting roles, and you can’t miss. Chad Stahelski directs, and he’s created an electric genre piece. “John Wick” is a very “pleasant” surprise.