Keanu Reeves, in and out of the Matrix | An unjustly reviled actor

Have passed thirty years from the moment in which Limit point (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991) a veteran FBO detective expresses his contempt for young special agent Johnny Utah, played by Keanu Reeves. “You really are a special moron,” says the detective. “Young, stupid, and full of milk.” The line stuck to Reeves. The Lebanese-Canadian actor was always in the lowest esteem of many film critics. Early in his career, he swept the Golden Raspberry nominations for “worst performance” of the year.

Despite all this, a strong argument can be made in favor of Reeves as one of the most unfairly defamed interpreters of his time, an actor with ease both for the action as for the comedy, and with a much wider range than his detractors pointed out. He got a taste of it early in his tour, when he moved easily from easy comedy to Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure (1989) to play existential loners, men in search of heroism, in films such as Limit point Y Little Buddha, from Bernardo Bertolucci (1993).

“His kind of acting was always a little bit strange,” she said of him once. Jan de Bont, who directed it in that bomb-on-the-bus blockbuster called High speed. But he said it as a compliment. Reeves is not that typical confident, quick-tongued macho character that swarmed in action movies of the 1990s. It has an introspective quality, hesitant, even a certain shyness, which makes it much more attractive and intriguing.

Reeves has outlasted almost all of his rivals from the 1990s. Now reappears on screen in Matrix Resurrecciones, fourth installment of the franchise, directed by Lana Wachowski; there he returns to incarnate the mythical character of Neo, again with those strange little pills. He continues to explode the box office in style with his thrillers of John Wick. At 57 years old, he is accepted by a younger generation who does not record his action films of the ’90s, at the same time that he is remembered with nostalgic affection by an older audience who saw him for the first time surfing, robbing banks or at the wheel of a runaway bus.

Some contemporaries of Reeves, such as Patrick Swayze, have already passed away. Others like Johnny depp they have seen their reputations fall apart amid controversy and scandals. Reeves’ name, however, remains immaculate, outside and inside the screen. The actor’s detractors often point to Johnny Mnemonic (1995), a sci-fi thriller set in 2021 … that doesn’t do such a bad job of imagining reality as we experience it today.

“Because of his robotics performance, you would never guess that he is a man made of flesh and blood, “published the newspaper The New York Times over the star. In the movie, Reeves plays a mafia courier who has 24 hours to get rid of the memory chip implanted in his brain, or he will explode. It’s not even remotely a convincing performance, but that has a lot to do with it. artificial filming style than with deficiencies inherent to its performance.

An image of Matrix Resurrections.

If you want to see Keanu in a high-concept sci-fi movie, you are much better off going for the first one. Matrix (1999), in which he shines Excellent. It’s not just his charisma to embody Neo, accentuated by those glasses and those long black jackets. Even more importart, Reeves is the entry point to the Wachowski universe, which confuses the mind with its labyrinthine style. With another kind of protagonist, the film could easily have been incomprehensible and deeply pretentious.

Unfortunately for Reeves, he quickly became a pop icon. In the United Kingdom, The Modern Review, The irreverent “low culture for intellectuals” magazine founded by journalists Julie Burchill and Toby Young, put it on the cover without a shirt, with the line “young, stupid and full of milk” as its headline in block letters. They claimed they admired him, but there was something inherently condescending in that approach. They treated him like some kind of male star, visual candy for media students.

In this period, Reeves did some of the best work of his early life, notably in Limit point Y My private world (Gus Van Sant, 1991), where he played a street boy taxi. He also stood out in his choices more than is publicly acknowledged, ready to lay his hand on everything, from Shakespeare adaptations (which ultimately was not a very good idea) to vampire movies: he was outstanding in the romantic role of Jonathan Harker, facing the bloodsucking Count Vlad who played Gary Oldman in Dracula adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic of Francis Ford Coppola.

Bigelow deserves credit for realizing the potential of Reeves as star of the action cinema. She saw that he had the screen presence necessary to be the FBI agent in Limit point. It is said that the director had to work hard to convince the heads of the studio to include him in the cast. “He’s the right guy”, he insisted.

Reeves was the 1990s equivalent of those 1940s and 1950s movie stars as Audie Murphy y Montgomery Clift, which proved surprisingly effective in war movies and westerns. He wasn’t one of those rugged, ultra-macho guys, like Lee marvin. He had a sensitivity that they lacked, and that was the central point. He was not a bully. Even in his darkest roles he kept that quality of looking like the kid next door.

In fact, Reeves is an accomplished film actor. From the beginning of his film career he understood the axiom that less is more. His fictional characters rarely betray their emotions. In John Wick, the protagonist reacts to the death of his beloved dog in the same way that Clint Eastwood he used to react to the death of his closest and loved ones in westerns and civil war movies. That said, he suppress and bottle the grief. The less feelings she shows, the more the audience understands the sheer magnitude of her grief.

It can be easily understood why Reeves was chosen to narrate the 2015 documentary. Mifune: The Last Samurai, a hagiographic account of the life and times of the great Japanese star Toshiro Mifune, protagonist of Yojimbo Y The seven samurai. “Without Mifune there would have been no The seven magnificents. Clint Eastwood wouldn’t have had a handful of dollars and Darth Vader would not have been a samurai“Reeves intons.” He took up two of his favorite hobbies, cars and alcohol, often at the same time. “

Reeves could have easily added that his own career could not have played out the way it did if Mifune hadn’t created the mold for the modern-age action hero. Keanu, anyway, has qualities which Mifune lacked. It looks much more relaxed on screen than the snooty Japanese performer. He also has an inscrutable quality that many of the greats on the big screen share. We don’t know exactly what he’s thinking. His face is a canvas on which viewers project their own and most intimate feelings.

Carrie-Anne Moss, Lana Wachowski y Reeves (Imagen: AFP)

Nor did he get stuck with that alternate world of class B formula movies inhabited by other action actors such as Nicolas Cage y Liam Neeson. The movies of John Wick They may be hackneyed in terms of plot, but they’re made on big budgets and feature outlandish, highly elaborate choreographic evidence. They all have to do with movement and the big show. They allow Reeves to deploy his almost ballet grace, another quality critics often overlook.

Watching him gracefully slide through a series of situations to which more dangerous, one realizes that he is one more action hero in the tradition of silent film stars like Douglas Fairbanks in The Fox than in that of mammoth contemporaries like Sylvester Stallone y Arnold Schwarzenegger.

These days, Reeves doesn’t just appear in action movies and series reboots Matrix and of Bill & Ted. He has also produced interesting documentaries such as Side By Side (2012), on the passage of filmmaking from celluloid to digital. In 2013 he also directed a movie, Man of Tai Chi. It can be underestimated at your own risk. As its title suggests, the franchise Matrix may need a resurrection but Reeves arrives at the film in a position of strength. The FBI detective who made fun of him in Limit point he was completely out of place, like all those grumpy ones who have downplayed him since the days of Bill & Ted. He was not an idiot then and he is not an idiot today. Maybe now, with 68 movies and more than 30 years of a “great greatest” career (as Bill and Ted might call it), get the respect you deserve.

* From The Independent From great britain. Special for Page 12.

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Keanu Reeves, in and out of the Matrix | An unjustly reviled actor

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