Reports that Keanu Reeves is staging a comeback are too true to be good. Over the past decade, as the actor languished in b-movie limbo, the more optimistic among us began to hope that we’d soon be rid of him altogether. But lo and behold, his latest action thriller has done remarkably well at the US box office, paving the way for a franchise. Which is no good thing, when one John Wick film is already surplus to requirements.
We meet Wick, a recently widowed ex-assassin, as he’s settling down to a quiet retirement. But when thugs break into his home, steal his car and kill his dog, he goes spare and sets out to exact retribution. As revenge flicks go, it isn’t the most compelling motivation – but then this film doesn’t really do character, or story. Instead, we just watch Keanu shoot and kapow his way through a string of action set-pieces, all while wearing the concerned expression of a schoolboy about to walk into an exam he forgot to prepare for.
There’s something self-consciously old-school about it all. The baddies are Russian mafiosi; the doctor is a Chinese homeopath; and a whiff of misogyny clings to the proceedings. Call it Roger Moore-era Bond without the wit. At least the film has the sense to make a virtue of its lameness: the script cracks a couple of jokes at Keanu’s expense, and there’s a funny running gag about the noise complaints that his punch-ups incur. But your cheekbones won’t exactly be aching by the end.
Ultimately, what can be said in favour of John Wick? That it knows how silly it is? That it’s only 101 minutes long? It is a film that inspires the faintest praise, and the vain hope that there isn’t more to come.