The last time I recall a name-brand actor getting really furious about his dog being murdered was in Norman Mailer‘s Tough Guys Don’t Dance (’87). Moments after his dog has taken a shiv in the ribs, Ryan O’Neal eyeballs the assailant and growls out “Your knife…is in my dog!” That line, to me, was silly-cool, and John Wick (Lionsgate, 10.24) is on a similar wavelength. But lines like “this is personal” and “that dog was the last gift of my dying wife” don’t help. A man’s relationship with his dog doesn’t have to be explained or put into context. Due respect to all dying or dead wives, but it exists on its own pure plane.

Indiewire critic Eric Kohn has seen John Wick at Fantastic Fest and has posted the following:

“Following the jubilant post-modern martial arts efforts 47 Ronin and Man of Tai Chi” — come again? — “Keanu Reeves stars in [this] hugely satisfying B-movie with the confidence of an actor right where he belongs. Like Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson, Reeves’ performances in guilty pleasure fare are both straightforward and dripping with irony, with John Wick providing one of the best examples. Neither surprising or groundbreaking in any particular way, the movie gives us what we want and leaves it at that.

“As the title character, the typically monotonous thespian plays a retired hitman coping with his wife’s death by finding companionship in the puppy she leaves behind. When the pet is abruptly murdered by the spoiled offspring (Alfie Allen) of a Russian crime lord (an enjoyably gruff Ian McShane), Wick returns to action for one last violent streak, gearing up to avenge the death of his beloved pooch. Bullets fly and bodies fall as the reformed killer gradually gets closer to his target.

John Wick makes up for its lack of sophistication in the sheer eagerness it brings to the scenario. Its chief villain, who puts a contract out on Wick and spends much of the movie sending his goons on ill-fated trips to take him down, frequently speaks in Russian, while his dialogue is subtitled in colorful, glistening text that emphasizes the cartoonish nature of the proceedings.

“Though it never reaches the absurd heights suggested by such stylistic flourishes, first-time director Chad Stahelski effectively stages a series of fast-paced showdowns with ample payoffs. When a series of masked gunmen surface at Wicks’ home, his immediate reaction — a blend of fast-paced physical maneuvers and gunplay — may as well be a muscular shrug, but the showdown is so fluidly staged that it’s impossible not to enjoy the effortless ride.”