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REEVES, KEANU
(1964– ). Canadian actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: Young Again (Steven Hilliard Stern 1986); Babes in Toyland (tv movie) (Clive Donner 1986); Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek 1989); Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures (animated tv series; voice) (1990); Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (Peter Hewitt 1991); Bram Stoker's Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola 1992); Little Buddha (Bernardo Bertolucci 1993); Speed (Jan de Bont 1994); Johnny Mnemonic (Robert Longo 1995); Chain Reaction (Andrew Davis 1996); The Devil's Advocate (Taylor Hackford 1997); The Matrix (Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski 1999); The Gift (Sam RAIMI 2000); The Matrix Revisited (video documentary) (Josh Oreck 2001);  "Kid's Story" (animated; voice), segment of The Animatrix (Shinichiro Watanabe 2003); The Matrix Reloaded (Wachowski and Wachowski 2003);  Enter the Matrix (video game) (Wachowski and Wachowski 2003);  The Matrix Revolutions (Wachowski and Wachowski 2003); Constantine (Francis Lawrence 2005);  A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater 2006); The Lake House (Alejandro Agresti 2006).
 
Keanu Reeves is one of those rare performers who keeps getting worse and worse as his career progresses. Assured and self-confident as a male ingenue in the 1980s, he now stands visibly ill at ease in front of the camera with facial expressions that reflect the anxieties of an insecure performer ("What emotion am I supposed to be expressing now? And how am I supposed to be expressing it?") more than those of the character he is struggling to portray. One starts to feel sorry for the man, trapped in a situation he simply cannot cope with, but nothing could be more counterproductive to a filmmaker seeking the audience's willing suspension of disbelief.

In the beginning, when Reeves emerged as yet another appealing celluloid teenager of the 1980s, no such problems were in evidence. Competent in forgettable fluff like Young Again and Babes in Toyland, he was surprisingly central to the ensemble comedy Parenthood (1989), effortlessly holding his own amidst veterans like Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, and Diane Weist. But special attention must be reserved for his delightful performances in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. We all knew that his Ted was even stupider than Alex Winter's Bill, but he made utter stupidity so charmingly attractive that we were all rooting wholeheartedly for his triumphs over more intelligent adversaries.

But he was getting too old to play adolescents like Ted, so Reeves needed to reinvent himself in the 1990s. A few disconcerting stumbles ensued: given the nothing part of Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker's Dracula, he did nothing with it, and he also found himself helpless amidst the complete miscalculation that was Little Buddha. The unfortunate turning point in his career, paradoxically, was an enormously popular film, Speed; realizing that the heroes of action films had to be Cool, Reeves worked overtime to project this quality, and did so reasonably well. But something about being Cool must have unsettled Reeves, perhaps because it was not in his nature, and in subsequent endeavors with similar demands he couldn't come close to recapturing his inaugural success.

While Reeves demonstrated some integrity in turning down a huge paycheck to avoid the awful Speed 2: Cruise Control, he cannot escape blame for the complete debacle that was Johnny Mnemonic. Don't trust the reviews that attribute the failure of this film to its inexperienced director, for this was a lively and imaginative film that failed only because of the stunning inertness of its protagonist. When a Hollywood veteran is being hopelessly outclassed by two moonlighting musicians, that inexorably raises questions about the veteran's abilities. And so it is that the only possible emotional response to this film is to holler at the screen, "For heaven's sake, why didn't you make Ice-T or Henry Rollins the hero?" Chain Reaction displayed no significant improvement, and the major pleasure of The Devil's Advocate lies is watching Reeves get eaten alive by a real actor, Al Pacino.

As directors Andy and Larry Wachowski approached the Reeves Problem for The Matrix, they seemingly hit upon a brilliant solution: to instruct or manipulate all the actors around Reeves to act just as badly as he does, so his ineptitude doesn't stand out. Somehow, in a film carried by the brilliant audacity of its concept and a unique visual flair, the strategy worked, though one notes that, after two more rounds with Reeves in the film's less successful sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, Larry Fishburne and Carrie Anne-Moss have not been particularly visible, their careers in ruin after being dragged down to Reeves's level once too often.

I once thought I detected a genuine sense of guilt in Reeves—unlike the similarly untalented Richard Gere and Val KILMER, Reeves seemed to know that he wasn't doing a good job, and it seemed to  bother him to be making so much money for such lousy work—which inspired a hope that he might retire from acting, to live off his earnings and seek inner peace while allowing other, more talented actors to obtain the interesting roles that he keeps attracting. Unfortunately, however, big offers have kept luring him back to the big screen, despite clear signs that audiences were tiring of his monotonous numbness; his only success came in A Scanner Darkly, where he was cast as a man whose mind was being destroyed by drugs (so that his incompetent acting matched his character) and he was turned into a cartoon (which did nothing to diminish his typically minimal expressiveness). Perfectly suited to play the mute, emotionless robot Gort in the forthcoming remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Reeves instead has inexplicably been cast as Klaatu, which is as disheartening as hearing that a forthcoming remake of Citizen Kane will feature the Rock as Charles Foster Kane. This time around, when Klaatu dies, no one will know the difference.

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