Saturday, October 25, 2014

Top 5 Films Featuring Keanu Reeves

Disclaimer: This list is in no particular order. 

These are just some of my favorite films that Keanu Reeves, the actor and one of the stars of the new film "John Wick" has been in over the years that I enjoyed either based solely on their performance or it was just a generally well made and enjoyable film that they happened to part of in a supporting capacity.

When one thinks of Keanu Reeves they often have two very distinct and different words come to mind. The first would be "Neo" because let's face it, that role pretty much defined his career. The second would be "Whoa" because let's face it, that exclamation pretty much defined his career as well. While it is somewhat redundant to criticize him for his blank expressions, lack of range and his penchant for choosing the wrong material (Shakespeare anyone?), I would like to take the higher ground and say those are actually the qualities that have helped him persevere in this world filled with skeptics and naysayers.

Just one look over his filmography will show you that for every bad decision he has made over the years (Johnny Mnemonic, The Watcher) he has made equally smart and calculated moves (I Love You to Death, The Devil's Advocate). He has even recently showed some real skill behind the camera with his directorial debut Man of Tai Chi which really impressed. But there are of course a handful of films that stand out from the lot, the films that not only define him as an actor, but also show that perhaps he is more than just Neo and that exclamation mark. Here are the top five films I believe represent Keanu Reeves as an actor and artist best.
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If you had to choose one character that Reeves has played during his extensive career that rivals his role as Neo as the most prolific, it is without a doubt Ted. An unknown commodity at the time it was released, Reeves (and his costar Alex Winters as well) created two pop culture icons who whether you like it or not have influenced your life in one way or another. Either through their totally tubular way of speaking or from their adventure through time to collect historic figures for their History class presentation, Bill and Ted's excellent adventure is not only an iconic role for Reeves, but is quite possibly one of the best comedies to ever be made.


Just when you thought Reeves would always be pegged as that surfer dude with a tude, along comes Jan Debont's action masterpiece Speed. As officer Jack Traven Reeves showed the commanding presence of a real honest to goodness action star. If there were one film that could be looked upon as changing the way audiences saw Reeves as an actor, it would no doubt be Speed. Not only did the film feature some incredible (and mostly real) stunts and action set pieces and help provide Reeves with his first real bonafide hit, it also served as a launching pad for costar Sandra Bullock's career as well.


Here it is, The Matrix. Let's forget about the sequels and just focus for a second on the awesomeness that is the first film. Arguably flawless on nearly every level (story, action, effects) and providing one of the most iconic villains of all time in Agent Smith, The Matrix was seen as the biggest jump in both technology and cinematic vision since the original Star Wars. Reeves as Neo was of course instrumental in making the entire film work and was one of few times his lack of range and blank expressions seemed tailor made for the role he was given. Reeves will sadly never have a massive hit like The Matrix ever again, but then again how many actors can say even have film of this magnitude in their filmography let alone be its star? Not many.


The dark horse of the list, but let me explain. For those of you who have either never heard of or seen director Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly (a film based on legendary Sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick's short story), both of whom are fairly large groups sadly, this film is a monumental achievement in nearly every category. Filled top to bottom with stellar actors (Woody Harrelson, Robert Downy Jr., Rory Cochrane and Winona Ryder), the only thing that tops the film's incredible visuals (a process called rotoscoping) is its dark undertones and mundane vision of the future. Reeves once again brings those distinct qualities of his to the role and proves that there are indeed certain projects and films that only he can bring to life. See this amazing film if you (most likely) missed it and be reminded once again that Reeves can surprise you when you least expect it.


OK, Point Break is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine (and many others according to the stage play that was made of it). The absurdity of a story focused a group of surfers who dress up as ex-Presidents who rob banks to fund their endless summer is on surpassed by the casting of Reeves as an FBI agent named Johnny Utah (GREATEST.NAME.EVER) who must pose as a surfer to infiltrate their group and take them down. Somehow though, Academy award winning director Kathryn Bigelow made us forget about the entirely ridiculous plot points with some amazing action scenes, stunts and through the sheer on screen chemistry between Reeves and Patrick Swayze who played the leader of the surfer gang. Great flick and a ton of fun from beginning to end. Just turn off your brain and enjoy the ride because it is 100% pure adrenaline. Too bad they are remaking this though...


 Honorable Mention

I honestly haven't seen this film since I was a kid, but there was just something about it that has made it stick with me over the years. It is one part romantic comedy and other part outrageous screwball comedy. Reeves plays a young man who falls in love with an older woman which on its surface isn't all that unique. But add in Peter Falk as this crazed radio show producer who uses their love story as the basis for his latest hit which airs each day like an update to their activities and the absurd hatred Falk's character shows towards Albanians and you have a nice hidden gem of a movie that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.


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