Keanu Reeves' third John* (after Neumonic and Constantine) is probably his most successful, but lacks the slightly askew shenanigans (Dolph Lundgren as a musclebound Jesus, Peter Stormare as a whistle-while-you-work Satan) to keep drawing me back for another trip around.

John Wick is a former hitman, the kind of hitman you send out to do the impossible, but he gave all that up when he found love. Unfortunately his wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) has a terminal illness that after "five years and change" finally steals her away, leaving Wick a broken man. Helen though had the forethought and enduring hope for her partner's happiness to include an adorable puppy named Daisy (Andy) in her will, as a friend to help John grieve.

Alas, Wick's path gets crossed with the brattish Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) whose desire for Wick's car is so great that he breaks into his house, beats him senseless and murders the aforementioned puppy.

This is the last straw, and Wick unpacks his old tools and sets about on a single-minded course of vengeance.

It's a straightforward set-up that goes for the easy emotions with the same sort of effectiveness as the opening moments of Pixar's Up, Wick's pain is told beautifully by some of Keanu's most open and honest work, which allows him to portray Wick as an almost entirely arch, deadpan killing machine once Act Two gets underway.

Whilst his journey back into the assassin underworld is filled with comic-book style conceits - a post massacre clean-up team, a hotel entirely populated by assassins - the characters are a tad too thinly drawn, relying on recognisable casting (Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane among others populate the roster) to excuse what little impression they otherwise make.

It's down to Lance Reddick as the hotel concierge, Clarke Peters as a fellow hitman, David Patrick Kelly, Kevin Nash, Bridget Regan, Randall Duk Kim and Thomas Sadoski who all work wonders with barely scribbled parts to give a sense of a larger, more interesting world than the one we get to experience in this slice.

Action-wise the gun-fu choreography is precise and packs a punch, directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch both worked with Reeves on The Matrix series and have a long list of stunt credits to their name. However, once the tone of the violence is established there's very little variety and the regularity of the action diminshes it's impact rather than creating a relentless energy.

Meanwhile the script by Derek Kolstad seems a little tentative about blossoming into the wry-noir it occasionally shows flickers of being; exchanges between Wick and a policeman, and the aforementioned concierge, bristle with sardonic humour, and a bulletpoint monologue by a cuffed Wick starts to get the film boiling - only for it to fizzle at the final furlong.

As a popcorn quaffing slick little entertainment package it's fine, a solid late-night watch, the kind of film you'd stumble upon on late night television and have a blast with. Though it's more suited to that "discovery" vibe, because it feels like a great just-missed opportunity more befitting a forgotten B-picture time slot than a film that has nailed its tone.


*Thanks to commenter m_lucaro who pointed out my mistake, this is actually Keanu's 7th character named John!