‘A savage ballet’

Rated 3.0

This dazzling action movie is basically a savage ballet, superbly orchestrated for Keanu Reeves (in the title role) and a small army of shooters, fighters, urban miscreants, combat junkies, etc. Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, a couple of stuntmen-turned-directors, use the simplest of revenge plots as the occasion for a cinematic circus of high-energy action—hand-to-hand combat, gangster shootouts, car chases, etc.

Reeves is very good in a role that mixes a little bit of acting and a lot of acting out to powerful effect. Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), a Russian mafia honcho, does the best talking in the movie, but he too gets in on the action before it’s over. Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Willem Dafoe all make distinctive impressions in key small roles.

The script, credited to Derek Kolstad, has a plot premise that smacks of travesty: Wick, retired as the hitman’s hitman and grieving over his wife’s recent death, returns to furious action when Tarasov’s nitwit son steals his vintage automobile and kills his dog. But travesty may be part of the deal here: When the main villain pauses in his final battle with Wick to lament the younger generation’s lack of respect for civilized combat, Keanu/Wick—moving in for the face-to-face kill, and looking thoroughly barbaric—asks, “Do I look ‘civilized’ to you?”