By Amanda Rossenrode
John Wick: Chapter 2 was released on Feb 10th, and I think it is time to remember one of the nation’s truest treasures, Keanu “Whoa…” Reeves. Keanu, if you are unaware, is an ageless vampire that literally created the “blank stare” method of acting. I say this not to tease, as no other actor can convey such different emotions in an utterly lax face. I say this as a Keanu fan, his movies are highly entertaining and seem to stand the test of time. Many of the films I reference in this article I would watch again, tonight, if stumbling upon them on TBS.
In his long career he has had many a role. He will not be typecast like Clooney, sexily smirking through casino heists and corporate takeovers; or Tom Cruise, running to and from things like a video game quarterback. Here are just a few of the brilliant characters he has crafted over the years.
(Not to be confused with The Dude from The Big Lebowski. Although I do think Dude Keanu and The Dude would have much to say to one another.)
Now, many off you short-sighted readers will say, “but that’s every character he plays!”. I will tell you to shut your mouth. Dude Keanu is a character that he honed in the early nineties and has been repurposed over and over in movies like Wayne’s World, GoodBurger, until Dude, Where’s my Car took it outback and beat it to death with a shovel at your grandmother’s birthday party. Dude Keanu first appeared in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its perfectly serviceable sequel Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. While scholars may argue that the "Dude" archetype was originally introduced in Jeff Spicoli of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, I will point out that scholars once thought the earth was flat and you could cure witchcraft with leeches. Jeff Spicoli was a slacker, a no-goodnick who was pretty self-involved, and didn’t care about anything. Ted “Theodore” Logan, was a happy-go-lucky soul, but he cared about a lot. He cared about the Wyld Stallyns and wanted audiences to know they ruled. He cared about Bill S. Preston, Esq. He cared about flunking history and disappointing his father to the point that he would take some salty parking lot curmudgeon’s advice that he should travel in a phone booth through time. In Bogus Journey he cared about the fate of the princesses to the point he would go to hell, play Twister with Death and then fight cyborgs to win them back (I said it was serviceable, not Shakespeare). The difference between Dude K. and say a character like Stifler, is that Keanu’s astutely crafted character is misinterpreted by the outside world as an airhead, yet beneath the bodacious exterior is an innocent, a man-child easily hurt by the world, as well as a protector and a philosopher.
We see Dude K. appear again in River’s Edge and more notably, Point Break. In Point Break, he plays a 25 year-old FBI agent that must infiltrate a band of surfing bank robbers because apparently that was a thing in the 90's. I wouldn’t know, I was little then and my parents surely would have sheltered me from such disturbing news stories. He learns to surf via the tutelage of Tank Girl (or more recently, Lolly from Orange is the New Black) and pretty much blows his cover by revealing his true self to her, despite the fact she’s Bodhi’s ex and good friend. He cares for Patrick Swazye in a final scene with a touching bromance sentimentality that would not be seen again until Paul Walker lets Dom go at the end of Fast and the Furious, completely ruining months of careful police work and setting us up for seven (7even?) more FF sequels.
Keanu reportedly feared that his tombstone would read: “Keanu Reeves: He played Ted.”- A fair assessment at the time. He wanted to fight typecasting, so he took on some more serious roles. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, he played Jonathan Harker, against heavy hitters and actual British people like Gary Oldman, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Cary Elwes. He attempted… no, that’s not the right word… He… someone on set painstakingly forced him to repeat every third word in an affected British sounding accent —and then turned around and did the same with Winona Ryder. Listening to him describe himself as being “impotent with fear” is like listening to your mom rap Eminem lyrics. At least he sets himself up to be the kind of good-looking weenie that could lose Winona Ryder to a monster dressed up like a steam-punk cosplayer. He plays an attorney who is trying to work out the real estate affairs of an elderly man that uncannily resembles Princess Leia’s great-great grandmother. Count Dracula is obviously a man of some means, based on the castle and fleet of naked women and his endless supply of sacrificial infants, and we are supposed to believe his firm would put this important transaction in the hands of a person who has problems pronouncing basic vowels in his native language.
The same guy that told Leo that you can’t get that sweet Oscar gold without adopting an accent probably whispered in Keanu’s ear when he decided to play a Florida lawyer in the Devil’s Advocate. Now guys, he’s not just any lawyer, he’s the best lawyer. He’s so good, Satan wants him as lead chair in a big time case in New York. Now, some of you will argue that being the son of Lucifer, old Luci would want to spend some time with him to make up for all the missed little league games, show him the ropes of the business of evil. Still, if you were the Lord of Darkness, would you be that eager to put your empire in the hands of some public defender from Pitstain, Florida? Darth Vader didn’t show up to Uncle Owen's hut on Tatooine, toss Luke the keys to the Death Star and be like, “Let’s see what this baby can do! Yeah, I just found your resume on LinkedIn by the way, you sound like a real team player…”
I’ve seen The Devil’s Advocate like 36 times and still can’t recall the ending, but I think the moral of the story is that if your vastly under-qualified for a job, maybe you should run a DNA swab on your boss and flick some holy water on them before accepting. This is why I turned down that assistant manager job at Chipotle.
As it turned out, audiences weren’t buying Intellectual Keanu —but us ladies love us hot and stupid! Or at least we do in movies. Dating a beautiful man that keeps getting his head stuck between the porch banisters can be trying. The fire department fines you after the third visit. The key to creating an utterly boring “date night” movie is to pair some pretty pudding-for-brains man with a manic pixie dream girl who is. Going. To DIE. She should dance around and pick wild flowers and steal pork chops or whatever seems whimsical before it is revealed that she has twenty days to live or takes a bullet for him in a surfer bank heist (damn you surfer robbers, stealing all of our delirium children!)
In Sweet November and A Walk in the Clouds, Romantic Keanu spends most of his time admiring his female lead in stone-faced “awe”, reciting scripted sentiments that make bitter spouses smack their partner’s arm and hiss, “why don’t you say stuff like that?”. I didn’t see The Lake House because my penchant for pain isn’t that high. I’m assuming there is a lake and presumably a house involved, unless this is like the time I tried to illegally download M. Night Shymalan’s Split only to find out it was about bowling. There’s also something about time traveling letters (god, can you imagine the content of Romantic Keanu’s letters? “I saw a duck today. He quacked and I laughed. Hope the future is nice today.”) What I am entirely sure of is someone in that movie DIED.
Jebus Help Us, He’s our Savior, Keanu
Amidst his foray into weepy “chick-flicks” we saw what will probably be carved on K’s grave— “Keanu Reeves: He Played Neo— The ONE. Get it? Switch around the letters and it spells one ya’ dim bulb.” Undoubtedly, “Whoa. I know Kung Fu” will be remembered at his wake above “I am impotent with fear” to his eternal relief (unless I’m there. I will shout that line over and over until I am bodily removed from the premises). The Matrix came at a strange time, the internet was sturdily planting itself in the houses of most people. Pirating and hacking became vaguely understood by most teenagers with a Limewire account. Plus, those effects? The cool outfits and awesome soundtrack (if you didn’t illegally download The Matrix soundtrack in 99 it was because your sister’s stupid friend kept calling and kicking you offline or your computer from Rent-a-Center was too damn slow).
He continued this trend of being a taciturn granite-faced deity in movies like Constantine, which thoroughly proved my hypothesis that staring directly into a cat’s eyes will give you a vision off Hell. Seriously, try it some time. I just grabbed my cuddly little harbinger of death off the kitchen floor and gazed into her eyes and saw a vision of myself chained to a fiery oxcart, dragging it through a river of lava as flying imps jabbed at me with hot pokers, embers singeing my hair and skin. Or maybe I just saw her desires. We’re out of wet food tonight.
We see him again, as hero with a dark past in the completely culturally sensitive 47 Ronin, which casts him as a masterless samurai who must rally together his other 46 ronin buddies to fight some sort of snake witch with magical swords or silly string… Or The Day the Earth Stood Still, where he’s some sort of god-like alien who is out to destroy humanity, because we basically suck, but Jaden Smith convinces him otherwise for some unfathomable reason. I guess he didn’t have the foresight he claimed and didn't foresee After Earth and whatever the hell is going to happen in 2017. Look guys, I only minored in Keanu Reeves Cinematic History, I majored in Chupacabra Sciences. Also, beware of any college you find in the Penny Saver that meets in the parking lot of an abandoned Wendy’s. That debt is non-dischargeable.
Look, I like Keanu the guy, he seems to be a stand up dude, and I would love to share a sandwich with him in the park and listen to his views on the environment or what really happened to the Wyld Stallyns. He seems like he has a good sense of humor and genuinely has enjoyed his career. I don’t think he would be offended if I took the lettuce off my half of the sandwich even though he had made the sandwiches himself in preparation for our meeting. I assume they would be turkey on wheat. Instead, he would just reach over, without skipping a beat in the conversation and add my discarded lettuce to his own sandwich.
Because that is just how awesome he is.