Talking Movies (Irl), July 13, 2010

Keanu Takes Stock

by Fergal Casey

Keanu Reeves will be 46 in a few months, so how is he dealing with mid-life cinematically?

Back in 2004 when I wrote a profile of Keanu for the University Observer he had just refused to play Superman for Warner Bros, and now (not being connected to any lucrative franchise) unlike the era of George Reeves, he’d be considered about 20 years to old to even get an audition. In that piece I’d cryptically noted that “The 40s is the decade where film stars have their last big roles” but didn’t have time to expand on my meaning, which was that Hollywood leading men tend to lose their cachet on hitting 50 so their 40s are the years where they have the maturity and the box-office clout to take on big roles – like John Wayne doing Red River and The Searchers, Gregory Peck doing Moby Dick, Cape Fear and To Kill a Mockingbird and even Michael Douglas doing Romancing the Stone, Wall Street and Basic Instinct.

Since Keanu turned 40 he’s appeared in only seven films Constantine, Thumbsucker, The Lake House, A Scanner Darkly, Street Kings, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. Like Jack Nicholson in the 1980s he’s not been afraid to play supporting parts. His gleefully self-parodic performance in a glorified cameo in Thumbsucker as a zen orthodontist who spouts Gnostic nonsense to the titular hero is by far the best thing in the movie. His turn in Pippa Lee is also a joy, as his middle-age failed pastor and failed husband screw-up embarks on a tentative romance with Robin Wright’s eponymous character that may just redeem both their lives. Keanu’s sci-fi films, Scanner and Earth, struggled to find sustained audiences. Linklater’s roto-scoped adaptation of Philip K Dick’s novel is a good if flawed film but Robert Downey Jr’s manic turn eclipses everything else, while Earth is a serviceable Christmas blockbuster in which Keanu nicely plays the emerging empathy with humans of the alien with awesome powers but the film struggles to truly justify remaking the revered original for the sake of CGI destruction sequences.

As far as mature roles go Street Kings’ Tom Ludlow must rank as one of his best. Ludlow is ‘the spear on the tip’ of the LAPD, a blunt instrument who stages ‘exigent circumstances’ to act on his Dirty Harry impulses and kill the worst criminals. Wrongly implicated in the murder of his former partner he jeopardises an elaborate cover-up by his friends in his single-minded search for the cop-killers, his unstoppable thirst for answers acting as a tragic flaw which reveals that his violent tendencies have been exploited by smarter people. Beside that career highlight The Lake House can seem insubstantial although it is a very sweet entry in the lengthy list of Keanu’s romantic dramas while Constantine stands out commercially as the franchise that never was… Keanu’s chain-smoking street magus John Constantine bore little resemblance to Alan Moore’s comics character but it powered a supernatural thriller with exquisitely deliberate pacing and a fine sense of metaphysical horror that was Keanu’s best film since The Matrix. Keanu seems to have moved away from franchise movies but that might just reduce the audience for his upcoming roles. He faces a dilemma it seems – does he take on another box-office behemoth or just cameo in indie movies?

Where he goes from here is a choice we leave up to him…


Constantine , Thumbsucker , Lake House, The , A Scanner Darkly , Street Kings , Day the Earth Stood Still, The , Private Lives of Pippa Lee, The , Matrix, The


Anakin McFly
(2010-07-14 16:32:43)

I thought it was the 'tip of the spear'? Or maybe not. :

Also - being in indie movies doesn't make it a cameo.

(2010-07-16 03:34:21)
 it WAS 'the tip of the spear' ;)
I like that someone sees that Ludlow is one of K's best performances up to date.
and 'Constantine, the franchise that never was ..." I like this journalist's style ;)
I only wish they'd stop calling Constantine Alan Moore's creation. He is, but only to an extent. The other writers added to the character more than Moore ever did. and yeah, pun intended.
I also like the closing line. ;)
Guestability (anything he chooses) (2010-07-18 04:51:43)
 "a choice we leave up to him" -- excellent parody of closing line of The Matrix.(!) Was wondering when we'd see something new, by way of articles! Keep seeing people say they have scripts (stories) for Ke to do. So, how do we get them to him? (so he can pick and choose something that casts his skill in a new and different light?) Manager Cheryl? Agent Kevin Huvane?
Anakin McFly
(2010-07-18 10:40:48)

There's no way to do that, sadly. Scriptwriters first need to get their own agents, and then those agents will try to sell the scripts to studios or producers, and then the casting departments of those places will contact actors' agents.
Guestability (to choose, as producer?) (2010-07-19 06:05:58)
 Now, that may well be true, if he's the actor. But what about if he's a producer? This article says he's on-board as producer ("industry speak" for he's backing it, financially). So, there must be another avenue, to get him to like it so much he'll not only act in it but back it, too.(!)

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