Poe faced slacker, action hero, moody romantic bastard and saviour of the world are all apt descriptions of roles that Keanu Reeves has played throughout his career. Some say Keanu has the emotional range of a plank of wood. Others think he is pretty much God’s gift to action cinema. I am personally of the mind that Keanu is just fantastic at playing dumb (so count me into the ‘God’s gift’ group).
Who Is Keanu?
If Keanu was a chick and a blonde, he would be Marilyn Monroe. A pretty face, enigmatic, deceptively smart and someone who can actually act but has been stereotyped into nonchalant submission (the only thing that would be vastly different would be the poor work ethic and all those addictions as Keanu is pretty straight laced). Proof of this is clear (in terms of acting) in such films as Gus Van Sant’s ‘My Own Private Idaho’ where he played a bisexual male hooker in a very loose adaptation of Henry IV Part 1. The chemistry between him and the late great River Phoenix sparked right off the screen and the depth of emotional range he showed in the portrayal of his character was astounding, a truly great piece of cinema. His depiction of a violent, cynical, dark cop in ‘Street Kings’ was a complex and sophisticated performance. Though that being said, not all of his roles have showed such chops.
There have been a fair few turkeys, be-it down to serious miscasting, bad scripts and well, in part, a bad performance…not wanting to name names but I think you might agree that the K man’s performance in ‘Dracula’ wasn’t exactly stellar and seriously what was ‘A Walk in the Clouds’ all about and I am not even going to go into the debacle that was ‘Chain Reaction’ (thankfully his second round of teaming up with the lovely Rachel Weiss in ‘Constantine’ was a way more successful endeavour). The thing is though, just like in any career with the good, comes the bad, no one constantly puts out 100% class all the time.
A Most Excellent Adventure
I am not going to give you a play by play of Keanu’s career as, if you are a fan, well there is no need and, if not, well, if not, thank you for still reading… Anyway, people (mostly of the teenage persuasion) started going wild over Keanu back when he was proclaiming how everything was “most excellent” and playing squealing air guitar in outstanding ‘Wild Stallions’ style in the film ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’. This film, though not by any means his first, kick-started his career into overdrive and propelled him into a number of roles, providing him with many opportunities with mixed results.
He went on to star in action and indie hits, such as the brilliant adrenalin fuelled, Kathryn Bigelow directed, action flick ‘Point Break’ creating one of the most revered and well-known bromances in modern cinema with his co-star Patrick Swayze. Other highlights over the following years were the aforementioned Gus Van Sant’s ‘My Own Private Idaho’, as well as the action vehicle that also secured his status as a romantic lead ‘Speed’ and the film that was slated as being sexist to the extreme by many a cinema goer but that was (in my opinion,) a pretty good watch ‘The Devil’s Advocate’. Not only did this film give Keanu a chance to get his ‘bastard’ on, he also got the opportunity to try his luck at holding his own alongside shouty shouterson Al Pacino – which for the record I think he did a pretty good job of.
There were a few casualties of this period (most of which I mentioned earlier). The other unfortunate consequence of the career boost that was ‘Bill and Ted’ was that Keanu did such a convincing job of playing Ted, that it became very easy for the industry and movie goers to type-cast him and see him only as a pretty, dumb, slacker of a man, who says ‘dude’ a lot.
The result being that even now his career is still not always taken seriously. But with 70 film credits to his name and a slew of films that a lot of other actors would kill to star in, the stats speak for themselves.
Into The Rabbit Hole
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
Ewan McGregor, Nicolas Cage and Will Smith took the blue pill option when they were all offered and turned down the lead role in the Wachowski brothers’ film ‘The Matrix’. Keanu, however, manned up and took the red pill and the rest is iconic pop culture history. The Matrix was a game changer both for film and for Keanu.
Now, I am a big fan of ‘The Matrix’. Not so much of the sequels but I personally don’t think they suck as much as most people would have you believe. I think the philosophy is over explained and a little on the pretentious side and yes I admit the action scenes are a little bit on the long side and a lot like a teenage boy spending some serious ‘shower’ time but still I don’t think this has any reflection on Keanu’s pretty consistent performance.
‘The Matrix’ instantly cemented Keanu’s ‘A-List’ status and gave him the power to green-light films just by agreeing to star in them. It even gave him the power to make pretty influential decisions. When James Ellroy’s ‘The Night Watchman’ was adapted into ‘Street Kings’, it was Keanu who had a major say in David Ayer being appointed to direct. At the time this was generally thought of as a bit of a risky choice due to the fact that, at that point in his career, Ayer only had one director credit (‘Harsh Times’) under his belt. The subsequent success of ‘Street Kings’ was proof of Keanu’s good instincts.
Come At Me Bro
Post Matrix, Keanu has been a bit more picky with his roles and has started to branch out into more areas of film. Along with sequels to ‘The Matrix’ and the variety of romantic dramas, quirky indie hits (like ‘Thumbsucker’) and the sci-fi and action roles that are a staple of his career, he has continued to expand his horizons and explore new areas.
Keanu is no longer content with being an actor, producer, musician, (he is the bassist in the band Dogstar), he has recently added the prestigious director credit to his name. His film ‘Man of Tai Chi’ (due out 2013) sees Keanu not only helming the project as director but he is also leading the cast, acting alongside ‘The Raid’s’ Iko Uwais. And if that wasn’t enough, he has tackled the whole shaky-cam, sometime loss of continuity during fight scenes problem, by using a bit of innovative film making genius using an incorporated Bot and Dolly to get as close to the action as possible, with the added bonus of being able to reproduce the exact same moves. By extension, this should also mean that they will be able to reproduce almost the same shot…which let’s face it will take care of that editing problem…you can read more about this here. I am really looking forward to seeing the results in a film that will hopefully be a piece of action class. I mean, what better project for Keanu to debut as director…action films are, by definition, his bitch. At least they are in the last dictionary I checked.
A Few Things You Might Not Know About Keanu
Rather than squeeze every penny he could out of ‘The Matrix’ trilogy, Keanu signed away his back-end deal for the sequels giving it instead to the special effects and costume design teams. An act of generosity that cost him around 50 million dollars.
Keanu also lowered his pay check by a few million dollars for the film ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ so that producers could afford to cast Al Pacino.
Keanu has this to say about money:
“Money is the last thing I think about, I could live on what I have already made for the next few centuries.”
He is a consummate do-gooder. He once helped a woman who’s car had broken down on the LA Highway. After being unable to help her start her car and after calling for the car to be towed, he gave her a lift home. Taking her 50 miles out of his way and he even gave her his telephone number in case she needed additional help.
He is known for being extremely kind and friendly on the set of his films.
Keanu is ambidextrous.
*I believe that Keanu is probably not impervious to bullets…but let’s put it this way, if by some chance he was. I would not be that surprised!
“The little hand says it’s time to rock and roll…”
So without further ado…I give you my Top
10 12** Keanu Reeves films
**I couldn’t manage to whittle my choices down to 10…it was too hard!
12. JOHNNY MNEMONIC
You may be wondering why this is on my list…2 words: Cyborg Dolphin!
In this film Keanu gave an essential gift to the teenage boys of the world. He singlehandedly let all little dudes know that masturbation was okay, therefore resolving the mass of guilt and…hmmm I have a feeling they probably would have got up to it anyway but at least after watching Parenthood they would have felt happier about it.
9. THE GIFT
8. BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
& BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY
I have kind of cheated and lumped the two of them together. They are both ‘most excellent’ and I would have definitely enjoyed history a bit more if I could have learned it by riding through time in a telephone box under the excellent tutelage of Rufus.
7. MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO
6. THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE
4. A SCANNER DARKLY
3. STREET KINGS
2. THE MATRIX
1. POINT BREAK
Perhaps not everyone’s favourite Keanu movie and really not considered to be his best performance – but do you know what? I don’t care. I have graded this list on my pure enjoyment factor and Point Break is hands-down my favourite film. What can I say, surfing, sky diving, bank robbing, ‘bromance’ having and Keanu lying on the ground, shooting his clip (not a euphemism), screaming his frustration into oblivion, whilst Swayze hightails it over a wall, does it for me!
So what do you think? Still convinced Keanu is just window dressing of the pine variety? Do you agree with my top 10? Do you disagree and want to fight it out Matrix style? Let me know in the comments below.Tags: keanu reeves, man of tai chi, point break, susie, the matrix