Keanu Reeves, slower and heavier since the Matrix movies, is nevertheless in Neo mode, dodging bullets and cutting his way through security cordons like a ghost. He is invincible simply on account of being John Wick, a high-grade assassin who has retired since his marriage but is now mooning over memories of his departed wife. His partner doesn’t return to the ground without giving him a parting gift – an adorable terrier named Daisy.

Since the puppy has been named after a flower, she will be crushed, and crushed she is, by Iosef (Alfie Allen), the psychotic son of Wick’s ex-boss Viggo (Michael Nyqvist). Wick is transformed into the world’s most dangerous animal rights activist, laying waste to Viggo’s empire as he tracks down Iosef.

Former stunt director Chad Stahelski’s debut feature is as preposterous as they come, but it has its dubious pleasures. Jonathan Sela’s moody camerawork suggests atmosphere where there is none, while Reeves and Co wield guns and the functional dialogue without falling too hard for the overall hollowness of the material. John Wick is set in a depopulated, grey-tinged Manhattan, whose entire police force seems to have decamped to Tahiti, and packed with a level of contrivance that is surely forbidden in film school.

Ian McShane and Willem Dafoe, playing the proprietor of an assassins-only hotel and an upright hitman respectively, remind us of their acting pedigree, while The Wire actor Lance Reddick has a neat turn as the hotel receptionist with an accent from somewhere in Europe. John Wick has a more identifiable ancestry: the chic, sleek and widely imitated South Korean gangster film. The copy is not as effective as the original, but at 101 minutes, it’s at least efficient.