“Must-see” Retrospectives for actors: Keanu Reeves

With the death of Elizabeth Taylor comes the inevitable list of retrospective works. There are some actors that deserve a second look at their entire body of work and Taylor certainly deserves a thorough review. And it follows that some other actors of note also deserve a second look.

AMC recently went through a list of the “best of” films of Keanu Reeves. I’ve always felt he was an actor in the same category as Clint Eastwood. They are the “misunderstood” types of action heroes who never get much recognition for under-performing. In Reeves case, he started as a type of Independent actor who gradually drifted towards the more lucrative and popular action roles.

Some of his best films are listed on AMC and the ones they recommend are some of his best. But 6 Degrees of Film often looks for the smaller films or less popular works that are, in some cases, much better than the standard pabulum that Hollywood likes to turn out. Here are a few of Keanu Reeves films that are part of any “must-see” retrospective of his work:

“River’s Edge”: Based on a true story, this 1986 film features Reeves along with Crispin Glover as one of a group of high-school friends who become accessories to a murder that one of them has committed. The plot revolves around the callous regard for the brutal crime and the indifference that some of the group convey towards a horrific crime.

“Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”: A 1989 light comedy about a pair of high-school slackers who travel through time meeting historical figures with a kind of joie-de’vivre and carefree attitude that is summed up in the tag line they use, “Excellent!”

“Tune in Tomorrow”: A 1990 light comedy starring Keanu Reeves with Barbara Hershey and the great Peter Falk in a nostalgic film set in the fifties in the age of radio. The film focuses on the May-December romance between Reeves and Hershey and also the coming-of-age for Reeves and his growing affection for the eccentric character played by Peter Falk. This is an often overlooked film with some nice comic touches.

“Speed”: This was a breakthrough role for Reeves and for Sandra Bullock. This 1994 film was strictly an Action-Adventure flick with no pretense of logic or deep thought. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable, if exhausting, way to spend a few hours and has some memorable and often-copied action sequences in it.

“The Matrix”: This is one that Keanu Reeves is probably most associated with and it is an interesting script on many levels. The plot of this 1999 film begins with Reeves living in some distant future where the virtual world basically exists as a cover for a bleak reality that actually exists outside of the matrix. The convoluted plot is plausible enough to interest generations of “gamers” and action-adventure fans with a series of martial-arts fights that defy gravity. The plot is so original and the idea so entertaining that it works in spite of the complicated twists and turns. The two sequels are truly forgettable, but the original is worth viewing.

There are other Reeves films that are worth a second look. “My Own Private Idaho” is an early independent film from Gus Van Sant, “I Love You to Death” is a funny, black comedy with Reeves in a small, but pivotal supporting role. And the action-adventure film, “Street Kings” with Reeves and the very talented Forest Whitaker as corrupt cops is much better than most shoot-em-up buddy cop films.

Also, “A Scanner Darkly”, an animated film based on a story by Philip K. Dick, is worth checking out simply to view a film in a different type of genre-the animated film uses the live actors in a technique called “Rotoscope” where the movie was filmed digitally and then animated using this process (Some big College words: Interpolated Rotoscope) over the original footage to give it a unique new look.

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