You know a while ago I wrote an article commemorating Michael Keaton for finally getting possible Oscar buzz this year for "Birdman" (A film I know I will enjoy when I get around to it). I loved talking about the forgotten talent of Keaton so much I realized I may do several of these "Unsung Hero" articles. And today is very special, this weekend to be exact. This weekend actor Keanu Reeves steps back into high-octane action with a brain with his new film "John Wick". I will be viewing this film tomorrow night and expect to love it as well. But for now let's speak of Mr. Reeves whose last name made the line in "The Matrix Reloaded" seem appropriate: "He's doing his Superman thing."
I remember watching a behind-the-scenes featurette of "The Matrix" films where Jada Pinkett-Smith spoke about seeing Reeves in a tub of ice between takes. She asked him why he was doing this and Reeves simply responded, "Someday you'll know." It is this kind of hardcore focus that has made Reeves a constant joy on film, using his unique gruff voice and iron stare to captivate audiences in the most surprising way whether it was as a savior in a post-apocalyptic, cyber thriller or, if you want to really hit the root of his origins, a goofy time traveler hoping to make it in music. Over the years he has shown a very grounded personality, unfortunately rooted in a tragic real life story of providing for his ill sister. Mr. Reeves is a man to commend on and off camera. Off camera he seems to have heart more than you can muster. On camera he has a dedication that goes as far as him offering up part of his paycheck so Gene Hackman could co-star in "The Replacements" with him.
People can take shots at his wooden style but see he doesn't attempt to be a smooth-talker. He plays unique roles and plays them to his strengths. In the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" he took that supposed wooden acting to play an alien who is emotionally separated from the humans he has come to condemn for mistreating the planet and brilliantly begins to convey a sense of empathy slowly but perfectly as he "Sees another side of them." I think I speak for many when I say his films are greatly underestimated, built for pure cinema-lovers who enjoy unique stories.
"47 Ronin" saw him as mixed-race outcast in the middle of a Japan where ancient lore is everyday life. He played the wise-cracking tough guy of John Constantine who, granted wasn't like the comics in almost any fashion, but still brought to life a vividly dark demon-hunter film that hadn't really been done before (Personally I hope for the longshot that Francis Lawrence makes a sequel regardless of the TV show after finishing off "Hunger Games".)
And people can complain all they want but "The Matrix" films are a spectacular, intelligent, philosophical series that over the years since their completion gained renowned respect for the vision they presented. Now we find Reeves in "John Wick", a film that has gotten a miraculous 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, and deemed a return to form for Reeves. It's nice to see him finally succeed again. He just seems like the kind of actor you want to root for. He doesn't go out into the media and talk like a jerk to people. He's a down-to-earth, hardworking physical actor who manages to defy all expectations given to him. And regardless of opinion, the guy CAN ACT. He just enjoys doing action films and who can blame him? How many people here can say "The Matrix", "Constantine", "Speed", "Point Blank", and a dozen other films aren't a blast to watch?!
So please people go see "John Wick" and help me celebrate a truly undervalued talent in Hollywood. I can only show you the door to the theater, you are the ones who have to walk through it.