What is the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the name ‘Keanu Reeves’? Chances are you’ll be thinking The Matrix, Speed and Point Break – in that order. Bill And Ted might sneak in there, depending on how old you are, but the point is, this is an actor who is now famed for his action movies. It’s not surprising – more often than not, his forays into the genre have heralded a project that has reinvigorated tired themes and created films that have quickly achieved legendary status.
His recent movie release, John Wick, is a great example of that. Co-directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch from a script by Derek Kolstad, the action thriller about a former hitman dragged out of retirement and seeking revenge takes all the elements we’ve seen a million times and shakes them up, like a storytelling snowglobe. Crucial to its success is its humour, which Reeves delivers deftly within a film that has won broad approval from audiences and critics alike.
Make no mistake, Reeves is an accomplished action hero, and long may his testosterone flood our screens. But, while many critics breezily dismiss him as a one-genre wonder, I wholeheartedly disagree. For a start, you only have to watch his weighty dramatic turns in films such as My Own Private Idaho and The Gift to realize that this man has talents beyond kung-fu and gun-play. There is a bigger issue at hand, here, though – and I have a theory. My theory is that Reeves has not yet found his calling-card non-action role, because he has yet to flex his biggest and most impressive muscle onscreen in his adult, post-1993 career. My theory is that Keanu Reeves needs a proper comedy.
Since his career hit the stratosphere – trapped on a fast-moving bus with Sandra Bullock, at the mercy of a vengeful Dennis Hopper – Reeves has rarely returned to the genre that actually helped him on his way in the first place. Frustratingly, we are occasionally offered tantalizing glimpses of that razor-sharp comic timing amid more dramatic Keanu-fare, but it is never allowed to fully blossom. Even in ‘dramedies’, such as Feeling Minnesota, Something’s Gotta Give, Thumbsucker, The Private Lives Of Pippa Lee and Henry’s Crime, Reeves is often boxed in as the ‘straight-man’ to more outlandish characters. I contend that Keanu Reeves is actually a powerhouse comedic talent, trapped in the career of an action star – and here is the evidence to prove it.