John Wick once killed three men at a bar with a pencil…. “A fucking pencil!” emphasizes the hit man’s former boss, who witnessed the act. That alone could make the case for why Keanu Reeves’ mostly stoic, revenge-driven assassin pulled out of retirement is the best new action hero on the big screen. Introduced to audiences in the 2014 action thriller John Wick, the character amassed a ridiculously high body count with a breathtaking mastery of martial arts and weapons. In the process, he left a trail of dead that included not only henchmen but also the best of your beloved modern action heroes, from Dom Toretto to Jason Bourne, and certainly the universes of superheroes smashing scenery with little to no stakes.
Anyone can shoot a gun, but can they use the barrel of a gun to stab someone in the throat, like Wick does in this exceptional club scene? He’s a lethal weapon whether armed or unarmed, but his brilliance goes beyond that. He’s complex. He’s ruthless but will still spare the lives of his enemies on occasion. And, lest we forget, it’s the killing of the puppy given to him by his deceased wife to help him cope with losing her that sets the course for the movie.
Have reservations about crowning Wick, who returns to theaters this week in John Wick: Chapter 2, the king of modern action heroes? Here’s why we’re right and you’re wrong—dead wrong.