“It was strong enough to make him want to unearth his past.

I thought of it not as revenge but as reclaiming.” The impulse is understandable.

But then a swaggering young Russian gangster (Alfie Allen) steals John Wick’s meticulously restored 1969 Ford Mustang, and also kills his dog in the process.

When we meet in a London hotel – him looking exactly as you’d expect, in a black suit and shirt, with hair slicked back and mossy beard neatly clipped – he’s grinning like he knows it.

John Wick suits the Beirut-born, half Chinese-Hawaiian, half-English actor. The setting is present-day New York City, spattered in streetlit, Sidney Lumet grit, but its style is pure Seventies Hong Kong, with surgically steady-handed camerawork, a ripened sense of mischief, and the kind of limber, elegant combat that brings to mind names like Kelly and Astaire rather than Stallone and Schwarzenegger.

So down he goes to the cellar, and out come the guns, knives, grenades, and the rest.

“For me, it was John’s grief that made it personal,” says Reeves.

It’s her parting gift to her husband: something to remind him how to love in the grey days ahead.

This is all played disarmingly straight, and Reeves, whose characters are often men who have battened down their souls against life’s storms, is like a human breakwater, hammered by grief.It made him cautious, and later that year, when Twentieth Century Fox came calling to enlist him for a Speed sequel, he made other plans.“When I was offered Speed 2, Jan came to Chicago and so did Sandra, and they said, 'You’ve got to do this’,” he recalls. It’s called 'Speed’, and it’s on a cruise ship’.” When he was next in Los Angeles, William Mechanic, the then-head of Fox Filmed Entertainment, tried to persuade him with a m pay cheque.So would Reeves make the same decision again, in the full knowledge of how things would pan out? Y-ee-aa-h,” he says, before rumbling with laughter. That was a whole, 'Hey, kid, this is what happens in Hollywood: I said no to the number two and I never worked with the studio again!’” He waggles his right hand, an invisible cigar clamped between his knuckles.What was in it for Reeves is slightly more complicated. But what drew him to the character, he says, was his sadness.