Campus Reel (Ca), March 1999
Keanu Reeves undergoes a millennium mind-meld in The Matrix
by Erin Hawkins
If you're the kind of person who suffers techno rage whenever the office printer runs out of paper, imagine being physically wired to an intricate computer network which has turned your life into a hellish virtual dream.
In the futuristic action-thriller The Matrix, this is the dilemma Keanu Reeves faces as Neo, a pre-millennial Everyman plagued by a recurring nightmare. Neo dreams that he is jacked into vast computer system 200 years down the road. Determined to fight back against the hardware overlords who've hijacked his existence, Neo teams up with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) who takes him to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), the leader of a resistance movement poised to battle it out with a group of clever secret agents. The film was written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, who turned heads with their stylishly noire 1996 debut Bound. With echoes of Bladerunner and The Twilight Zone, producer Joel Silver says, "The Matrix is a very complex story. It takes place in the future, but is told in the present - it's a mind-twister to explain!"
Cast members of The Matrix were subjected to four months of kung fu training, first in Los Angeles, then on location in Sydney, Australia.
Not only was Reeves up for the grueling preparation under the instruction of kung fu master Yuen Wo Ping, he also willingly shaved off his hair and eyebrows for the role, something most well-coiffed leading men would think twice about. Not surprisingly, his hairless look is already causing a stir throughout the numerous websites dedicated to the former Torontonian, last seen in The Devil's Advocate alongside Al Pacino.
In addition to his film work and his passion for racing around on vintage British motorbikes, Reeves plays bass in the rock group Dogstar, who have released one album to date - 1996's Our Little Visionary. While their material hasn't exactly received glowing reviews, no one can accuse the band of merely being a Keanu vanity box. Judging by the group's touring schedule, it would appear Reeves is as committed to his musical career as to his acting. From his chilling portrayal of Ike Turner in What's Love Got To Do With It, to beefy turn in Othello, Fishburne has been as prolific as his characters have been diverse.
In The Matrix, Fishburne cuts such a striking figure with his shaved head, shades and leather that some may find it hard to believe it's the same actor whose first film role was as a young G.I. in Apocalypse Now (Fishburne was only 15 years old).
Compared to Fishburne's voluminous résumé, Carrie-Anne Moss may seem like a newcomer, but the striking Canadian has certainly paid her dues. She has chalked up over 60 hours in various television shows, including Due South and FIX. Her intelligent portrayal of Trinity will likely lead to bigger and bigger roles.
Rounding out the cast are two wonderful character actors from opposite sides of the world: Jersey boy Joe Pantoliano (who played the cuckolded Mafioso boyfriend in Bound) and Australian Hugo Weaving, whose film credits include Proof and The Adventures of Prisclla, Queen of the Desert.
With brilliantly choreographed fight scenes, a hovercraft chase sequence and helicopters dangerously zigzagging between Sydney skyscrapers, you can bet your modem The Matrix will leave you both thrilled and disturibed.