Keanu Reeves didn’t start off as your typical action star and has tried to avoid being labelled as such, however he has always had a knack for choosing really interesting projects.
His first major action role was in the classic Point Break where he played an undercover FBI agent called Johnny Utah. He befriends a surfer called Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) who just might be the head of a gang of bank robbers called The Ex-Presidents.
The movie would be pretty much remade in 2001 and called The Fast & the Furious and yet we’re still getting another remake in a few months. The original has some spectacular photography including genuine skydiving and surfing scenes.
It’s also one of those movies where you’re kind of rooting for the bad guy as he is so charismatic.
It also has one of the most quotable scripts in action movie history with lines like “100% pure adrenaline” and more.
In 1994 he would star in one of my all-time favourite movies, Speed which would co-star Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper. Keanu played a cop called Jack Traven who must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph. I love the character of Jack as he isn’t the sharpest tool in the box but relies on his gut and sheer balls to get things done. The movie has one of the greatest action movie scores ever and is an expertly crafted thrill-ride.
Johnny Mnemonic (1995) wasn’t a huge hit with fans or critics and essentially disappeared mostly because it was just plain bizarre but it had some cool ideas. I liked the story which was about a data courier, who is literally carrying a data package inside his head; he must deliver it before he dies from the burden or is killed by the Yakuza. It also has a role for one Dolph Lundgren and may be worth a reevaluation.
I quite enjoyed Chain Reaction (1996) which was a pretty generic action thriller but its excellent cast included Morgan Freeman, Rachel Weisz and Fred Ward which lifted it from being totally forgettable. The story is about two researchers in a green alternative energy project who are put on the run when they are framed for murder and treason.
It would be in 1999 where he would star in one of the most genre redefining movies of all time, a little movie called The Matrix. It came out the same year as Star Wars: Episode 1 and wasn’t on anyone’s radar but ended up being a far superior movie and an instant classic. There would be 2 sequels: The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions which would be huge box office hits but didn’t quite capture the imaginations of the public the way the first one did. All three movies would explore great philosophical questions interspersed with kung fu, shoot-outs and car chases. Keanu played Neo (anagram of One trivia fans!); a hacker who would turn out to be the savior of mankind when he discovers that the life he has been living is a lie and mankind are in fact slaves to the machines. He would also say “Woah!” occasionally.
In 2005 Keanu starred in the rather underrated Constantine which was a loose adaptation of the comic Hellblazer; it had some cool visuals and Keanu played the character as the chain-smoking badass he’s meant to be. It tells the story of irreverent supernatural detective John Constantine, who has literally been to hell and back. Keanu has admitted that he would like to play the character again but that will likely never happen as the character has been reimagined in the recent TV series.
Street Kings was one of the better actioners from Keanu as it was a pretty hard hitting street movie about an undercover cop, disillusioned by the recent murder of his wife, who is implicated in the murder of an officer and must struggle to clear himself. It had some cool twists and turns and went under the radar so it’s definitely worth checking out.
Although it was more of a sci-fi flight Keanu wasn’t afraid to star in the remake of the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still; it was the type of movie everybody hated before it was even released but it’s actually not that bad with some interesting visuals.
2013 had two action movies from Reeves; one was actually bit of a martial arts classic and his directorial debut called Man of Tai Chi. Keanu played the villain and Tiger Chen would play the young martial artist whose unparalleled Tai Chi skills land him in a highly lucrative underworld fight club. The fight scenes were excellent and keep an eye out for Iko Uwais, star of The Raid movies.
The other movie was 47 Ronin which came and went with little fanfare but I really enjoyed it as it was something a little different and a much better film than the trailers had us believe. The story was about a band of samurai who set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun. It had some cool visuals and Keanu’s character was the classic reluctant hero.
In 2014 Keanu would make a blistering comeback in the fantastic John Wick; he played an ex-hitman who comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him. The action and choreography was just phenomenal and it became one of the best action movies of recent years.
A sequel was recently announced and we are counting down until John makes his welcome return to the big screen.
Keanu will soon be making a foray into television once again playing a hitman in the mini-series Rain; this time he’s an assassin who specializes in making his hits look like they’ve died from natural causes.
Things are looking good for Keanu Reeves and his choices may not always be box office hits but they are never less than interesting.