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John Wick

Those who can sit through bloody garottings and gruesome headshots will find a better-than-average bang-bang action flick

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Puppy love: Keanu Reeves
  • Puppy love: Keanu Reeves

In David Leitch and Chad Stahelski's stylishly produced actioner John Wick, revenge is a dish best served to one or two that quickly turns into an open-door, all-you-can-kill buffet.

Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a retired hitman (nickname: "Boogeyman," but in Russian, which sounds even more bad-ass), who quite naturally unpacks his weapons when a couple of young punks jack his vintage Mustang and kill his dog. And not just any dog, but the puppy his recently deceased wife had delivered after her funeral!

But one of those dog-murdering punks is the worthless scion of a New York City Russian gangster, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), and that causes a mess. To save his son, Viggo puts a bounty on Wick's head, initiating a 48-hour free-for-all of battling hitmen and one hitwoman.

The tender-eyed should be warned that John Wick is very violent. But those who can sit through bloody garottings and gruesome headshots will find a better-than-average bang-bang action flick.

Wick is moody and taciturn, so Reeves is a fine fit, and he's surrounded by caliber actors who know how to deliver junky fare with panache: Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick, Dean Winters and Game of Throne's Alfie Allen as the doomed dog-killer.

And despite the dark material, the film is sprinkled with plenty of sardonic lines; even Reeves gets a few laughs with his minimal but deadpan retorts. (Nyquist gets a big laugh simply saying "Oh.")

I liked the conceit that the film contained no good guys — everything occurs in a substrata of New York that is inhabited only by professional criminals; they even have their own high-class nightclub and hotel, with strict rules of conduct. As in any classic myth, Wick — who, being retired, is the only civilian — must journey into this nether region to right wrongs, and maybe — maybe — make it back out on the other side.

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