Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate Keanu Reeves

H30 years have passed since the moment Point Break (1991) by Kathryn Bigelow where an older FBI detective expresses his contempt for young special agent Johnny Utah, played by Keanu Reeves. “You’re a real idiot, aren’t you, kid?” Scoffs the detective. “Young, silly and full of semen.”

The dialogue stuck with Reeves. Many film critics held the Canadian actor in very low esteem. Early in his career, he racked up Golden Raspberry nominations for “worst performance” of the year.

Nonetheless, it can be strongly argued that Reeves is actually one of the most unfairly criticized stars of his day, an actor with a talent for both action and comedy, and with a much broader range than his detractors claim. . At the beginning of his career he showed that he could pass without any problem from the comic work of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) to portray adventurous, lonely, and existential heroes in films such as Point Break Y Little Buddha Bernardo Bertolucci (1993).

“His kind of acting has always been a bit awkward,” Jan de Bont, who directed him in the blockbuster Bomb On The Bus, once said of him. Speed, but he meant it as a compliment. Reeves is not the fast-talking, self-assured macho character of other ’90s action movies. He had a hesitant and introspective quality, even a shyness, which made him that much more attractive and intriguing.

Reeves has outlasted almost all of his rivals from the 1990s. Now it’s back on the screen at The Matrix Resurrections by Lana Wachowski, the fourth installment in the Matrix franchise, where he once again plays the mythical character Neo and takes those strange pills again. Continue to find box office gold with your thrillers by John Wick. Now in his fifties, he is accepted by a younger generation who have no recollection of his 90s action movies, while still being looked at with nostalgic affection by an older audience who first saw him while surfing, robbing banks, or drinking. steering wheel of a runaway bus.

Some of Reeves’ contemporaries, like Patrick Swayze, have died. Others, like Johnny Depp, have seen their reputation crumble amid controversy and scandals. However, Reeves’ name remains intact, both on screen and off.

The actor’s detractors often point to Johnny Mnemonic (1995), a futuristic sci-fi thriller set in the year 2021, and it doesn’t do a bad job of imagining reality as we experience it today.

“From his robotic performance, you would never guess that he is supposed to be a man of flesh and blood,” he wrote. The New York Times about the star. In the movie, he plays a mob courier, who has one day to get rid of the memory chip in his brain or it will explode. It’s not even remotely a convincing performance, but that has as much to do with the pretentious filmmaking as it does with any shortcomings inherent in its performance. If you want to see Reeves in a high-concept sci-fi movie, it is much better to turn to the first movie of The Matrix (1999), in which he excels. It’s not just his charisma as Neo, accentuated by those dark glasses and long black leather coats. More importantly, Reeves is the entry point to the mind-blowing, labyrinthine universe of the Wachowskis. With a less likeable lead, the movie could easily have been incomprehensible and overly pretentious.

Reeves and Patrick Swayze in Point Break the Bigelow

(Richard Foreman/20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock)

Reeves’ misfortune was that he quickly became a popular icon. In the United Kingdom, The Modern Review, the irreverent “low culture for intellectuals” magazine founded by journalists Julie Burchill and Toby Young, put him on the cover bare-chested and with the line “young, dumb, and full of cum” in bold type as its headline. They claimed they admired him, but there was something inherently patronizing about his approach. They treated him like a male fool, a feast to the eye of media studies students.

In this period, Reeves worked on some of his best early works, notably on Point Break Y My Own Private Idaho (1991) by Gus Van Sant, in which he played a street hustler. He was also far more daring in his choices than he was recognized by audiences, ready to try his luck at everything from Shakespeare adaptations (a bad idea in the end) to vampire movies (he was excellent as romantic lead Jonathan Harker. in front of the bloodsucker Count Vlad played by Gary Oldman in the Francis Ford Coppola adaptation, Bram Stoker’s Dracula).

Bigelow deserves credit for realizing Reeves’ potential as an action movie star. He saw that he had the screen presence to play the FBI agent in Point Break. He reportedly had to fight hard to get highly skeptical studio heads to pick him. “It has to be him,” he insisted.

In his role as John Wick in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum from 2019

(Lionsgate/Kobal/Shutterstock)

Reeves was the 1990s equivalent of those epicene movie stars of the 1940s and 1950s, like Audie Murphy and Montgomery Clift, who ended up being surprisingly effective in westerns and war movies. He wasn’t one of those tough, ultra-macho Lee Marvin guys. He had a sensitivity that they lacked. That was the point. He was not a bully. Even in the darkest roles, he retained his boy-next-door quality.

Reeves is indeed an accomplished screen actor. From the beginning of his film career, he understood that less was worth more. The characters in his movies rarely betray emotion. In John Wick, the protagonist reacts to the murder of his beloved dog in the same way that Clint Eastwood’s characters reacted to the death of their closest and loved ones in spaghetti westerns Y westerns of the civil war. That is, repress and represses the pain. The less feeling you show, the more the audience understands the magnitude of your grief.

You can easily understand why Reeves was chosen to narrate the 2015 documentary, Mifune: The Last Samurai, a hagiographic account of the life and times of the great Japanese star, Toshiro Mifune, who rose to fame for Yojimbo Y Seven Samurai.

Reeves in her role as the romantic lead character Jonathan Harker and Winona Ryder as Mina Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1992, directed by Francis Ford Coppola

(Zoetrope/Columbia Tri-Star/Kobal/Shutterstock)

“Without him [Mifune], there would have been no Magnificent Seven. Clint Eastwood would not have had a handful of dollars and Darth Vader would not have been a samurai ”, intoned Reeves in his narration. “He [Mifune] he engaged in two of his favorite hobbies, cars and alcohol, often at the same time. “

Reeves could have easily added that his own career might not have played out the way it did if Mifune hadn’t first created the template for the modern action hero. However, Keanu has qualities that Mifune lacked. He is much more relaxed on screen than the Japanese star. He also has an inscrutable quality that many of the great movie stars have shared. We are not sure what you think. Her face is a canvas onto which viewers can project their own innermost feelings.

Reeves has also not been relegated to the twilight world of low-budget films that follow the same formula inhabited by other action stars such as Nicolas Cage and Liam Neeson. The John Wick movies may be cliche in terms of plot, but they are made with healthy budgets and feature quirky, choreographed stunts in very elaborate ways. It is about movement and spectacle. They allow Reeves to show off his ballet grace, another quality critics often overlook.

Watching him gracefully slide through a series of increasingly dangerous situations, you realize that he is more of an action hero in the lore of silent stars like Douglas Fairbanks in his role as Zorro, than of contemporary mastodons like Sylvester. Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Alex Winter as Bill and Keanu Reeves as Ted in Bill & Ted Face the Music 2020, the third installment in the Bill & Ted series

(Orion Pictures/Moviestore/Shutterstock)

These days, Reeves doesn’t just appear in action movies and reboots from the Matrix series and Bill & Ted. He has produced intriguing documentaries, such as Side By Side de 2012, about the transition from celluloid to digital cinema, and directed a film, Man of Tai Chi in 2013. You underestimate it at your own risk. As its title suggests, the Matrix franchise may need to be resurrected, but Reeves comes to the film from a position of strength. The FBI detective who taunted him in Point Break he was sorely mistaken, as are all those resentful critics who have belittled him since the days of Bill & Ted. He wasn’t stupid then and he’s not stupid today. Perhaps now, after 68 films and more than 30 years into his “very excellent” (as Bill and Ted would call it) career, he will get the respect he deserves.

‘The Matrix Resurrections’ is now in theaters

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Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate Keanu Reeves

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