The Cool Breeze
Keanu Reeves has proven that you can definitely make a comeback more than once. This actor has proven himself resilient as he strikes box office gold time and time again, achieving roles in some of the most successful franchises to date. It’s no wonder that his name means “the cool breeze” in Hawaiian; he definitely has brought a breath of fresh air to cinema!
Keanu Reeves has been acting for quite a long time, and although he doesn’t seem to physically age, his skills certainly have, increasing in experience and getting better over time. Reeves’ very first notable role was in Youngblood (1985), a movie that saw him starring alongside Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe. For a young Reeves this was a big deal, as they were some of the biggest actors at the time. His role was small in the film, but it would allow him to get a break in the movie industry, leading to more significant roles soon to come.
After a few small TV parts, Reeves landed one of the films that he is most known for today: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). Reeves played “dumb teen” Ted alongside his costar Alex Winter who played Bill in the lighthearted, funny, and loved film. The plot followed the two boys as they prepared for a history presentation by messing around with a time machine. It became one of the staple movies of the 80’s; it was so loved in fact that a sequel was made in 1991 to similar acclaim: Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. That same year he began to nudge himself into the Action genre that he would become known for when he played FBI agent Johnny Utah in Point Break, where he acted alongside Patrick Swayze once more. However, Action wasn’t the only genre Keanu was interested in. A lover of quirky films, he took on the role of Scott Favors in My Own Private Idaho (1991) with costar and best friend River Phoenix, who played a gay hustler.
Not only limiting himself to acting, Reeves took the opportunity to dive into music as well. In 1991, he started an alternative rock band called Dogstar with friend Robert Mailhouse, who he had met at a grocery store. With Reeves as a bassist and Mailhouse on the drums, they added Greg Miller as the lead guitarist and singer, completing the trio. In 1994, Dogstar recruited a second vocalist and guitarist, Bret Domrose, and two years later, the group released their first project and EP, Quattro Formaggi which had four songs. Their first official album, Our Little Visionary debuted that same year in 1996, and was primarily distributed in Japan, where they had a large fan base. The band toured throughout the U.S. and Asia, even opening for David Bowie in 1995 at his Hollywood Palladium show. In 1999, the band released their last album together, Happy Ending, and broke up soon afterwards as all of the bandmates went on to pursue other endeavors.
Jumping back into the movie scene and the Action in 1994, he starred alongside Sandra Bullock in Speed, a successful movie about a police officer who must prevent a bus from exploding by keeping it above 50 mph. After switching it up by starring in Drama/Romance A Walk in the Clouds (1995) and Mystery/Thriller The Devil’s Advocate (1997), Reeves’ next big break came. One of the best movies of the 90’s, The Matrix (1999), exploded onto the scene in a way that no one thought it would. Keanu dutifully played the part of Neo, a character that has been praised for his style and iconic lines, forever adding him onto the list of Hollywood Royalty.
What was interesting about Reeves’ Matrix role, is that it should have allowed him to score blockbuster after blockbuster, considering how big the movie was. In actuality, it seemed to do the opposite. Keanu seemed to struggle a little after The Matrix, with a lot of his films either failing financially or critically. There were a few highlights during the next decade like The Matrix Reloaded (2003) which actually did better than the first movie, and Something’s Gotta Give (2003), a Drama/Romance with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. The Matrix Revolutions, the third installment of the saga, came out that same year, a couple of months after the sequel, although it didn’t receive the same amount of praise.
Reeves took many risks during this period as he experimented with genres and roles, even acting in the experimental animated film A Scanner Darkly (2006). While he definitely shines most in the Action/Thriller genre, it’s admirable that he takes sharp turns in his career while others would just drive straight. Keanu dabbled a lot more in indie, arthouse, and independent films, which made for provoking and gripping performances. They may not have done all that well at the box office, but it added to Keanu’s character and skill set in the end. A great example of this is when he dove into his first directorial project with Man of Tai Chi in 2013. The movie was set around a young martial artist’s Tai Chi skills and how he participated in an underground fight club.
Besides venturing into directing, Reeves also decided to pursue another passion of his in 2011 with ARCH Motorcycle Company, LLC. An avid lover of motorcycles, Keanu had asked designer Gard Hollinger to build a custom bike for him, and was so impressed that the two went into business together. ARCH motorcycles create “custom production motorcycles with a unique blend of performance, customization and attention to detail,” according to the company’s website. The very first ARCH bike debuted in 2014 at $78,000: The KRGT-1, a chopper-inspired sports naked. The company is still doing very well today, creating new designs and remaining active on social media.
After his first motorcycle design went live on ARCH in 2014, Reeves found his way back into the movie spotlight in an unexpected way: John Wick. The premise of the movie seemed underwhelming to many at the time: An ex-hit-man attempts to track down the people who killed his dog, that had been given to him by his recently deceased wife. Lots of people seemed to think the movie would be a flop, especially considering that Reeves hadn’t been in a major film in years and the directors were stuntmen/first time directors. To everyone’s surprise, it turned out to be one of his most popular movies to date, catapulting him back into relevancy. It made $43 Million in the domestic box office and $76 Million worldwide. Critics praised the adrenaline-rushing plot and Reeves’ powerful performance. “I really liked the character,” Reeves shares about what drew him to the movie in the first place, “I liked John’s grief, I liked his will, I liked his fighting for his self-agency.”
The much anticipated sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2 turned out to be even more fruitful than its predecessor. Raking in $92 Million in the domestic box office and $171 Million worldwide, it greatly surpassed its budget of $40 Million. The movie aimed higher than the first when it came to action and intense scenes, and it definitely delivered. Fans of the franchise are eagerly awaiting the third installment, John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum which comes out this month on May 17th! Keanu has been training for the film day and night. He enlisted the help of Shawn Ryan, a Navy SEAL veteran who provides tactical training to both police officers and civilians. Ryan helped teach Reeves how to enter a room with a weapon, handle weapons, position his body, and more to make his role as a merciless vengeful John Wick seem even more believable.
This isn’t the only one of Reeves’ films to be continued. The third movie of the Bill & Ted saga, Bill & Ted Face the Music, will continue on in 2020, with an August 21st release date. The movie will look at the teens, now as middle-aged, wanna-be-rock-star dads, who are attempting to create a hit song. Keanu hasn’t stopped there either; he also has a couple of other projects tacked to his To-Do-List. Netflix’s Romantic Comedy Always Be My Maybe will come out this month as well, and Toy Story 4, coming out June 21st, will see Keanu voicing new character Duke Caboom.
Whether you’re watching him as an action figure in Toy Story or a quick thinking killer in John Wick, Reeves will no doubt impress even the hardest critics. All of his upcoming projects are expected to do very well, and they should! Keanu has proven time and time again that he doesn’t take acting lightly as he trains for his roles, dips and dives into challenging genres, and gives each film his all. Make sure to head out to one of his upcoming movies to support! This time, you don’t have to choose between the red pill or the blue pill, you can indulge in them all!
By Selene Rivera