Rogue 10: Ten Truly Kickass Keanu Reeves Performances

Tuesday, 19 November 2013 09:26 Written by  iamrogue
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Rogue 10: Ten Truly Kickass Keanu Reeves Performances

These are turbulent times, times of danger and uncertainty. 

Times that call for fixed stars in the celestial firmament, for the assurance that only heroes can provide. There is a man suited for the task, a man who can show us the way in these disorienting days. 

That man is Keanu Reeves.

For decades now, audiences have been taking the stoic leading man for granted, but around here at IAR HQ, the walls might as well be covered in posters featuring his piercing stare.  Many movie stars find their groove in a specific type of role that play to their strengths and suit their particular stripe of charisma. Despite all the easy potshots folks have taken over the years, Keanu Reeves has maintained a rare kind of fearlessness, tackling all manner of characters and collaborating with the likes of Gus Van Sant, Bernardo Bertolucci, Kathryn Bigelow, and Francis Ford Coppola.  He's played Siddartha Guatama, for example, and directed his own kung-fu extravaganza.

So out latest Rogue 10 compiles ten of our favorite Keanu Reeves performances, all of which remind us to appreciate his unique talents.  If you're looking for something tongue in cheek, something mockingly ironic, then this isn't the list for you.  This list sincerely celebrates Keanu in all his ballsy, enigmatic glory.

Without any further ado, here's a Reevesian Rogue 10:

Himself - Side By Side (2012)

Okay, okay, this isn't actually a performance, since Keanu is just himself in this documentary, which he also produced.  It's clear, however, that Reeves is infectiously passionate about film and eager to discuss the differences between film and digital with all manner of moviemaking luminaries.  Plus, there's a surreal kick to seeing Reeves in earnest conversation with David Lynch.

John Constantine - Constantine (2005)

He's not blond.  He's not British.  He's exceedingly dissimilar to the sardonic anti-hero of Hellblazer, but Reeves nonetheless leaves an impression as the Americanized version of the character.  Psychic powers and golden shotguns aside, the actor goes whole hog on Constantine's world weary cynicism, disdainfully hocking out every line like the chunky phlegm he's so frequently coughing up.

Tod Higgins - Parenthood (1989)

Aspiring racecar driver Tod registers as the the least insightful character until he briefly pontificates after a semi-paternal sex talk.  Suddenly, Tod seems the most squared-away guy, blessed with a sort of zen wisdom.  In Reeves' hands, Tod's insight is both a casual musing and, in many ways, the centerpiece of this crowded ensemble.

Donaka Mark - Man of Tai Chi (2013)

Collaborating with himself as the villain in his directorial debut (a surprisingly assured and slick Chinese production that unabashedly celebrates fisticuff cinema), Reeves essays the rich overlord of a brutal fighting ring almost entirely through body language and posture.  That said, he's playing a bad guy, so he gooses it with a few big exclamatory moments.

Johnny Utah - Point Break (1991)

Who else could wring such transcendence from picking up a huge hand cannon of a gun, declaring "Fuck it," and jumping out of a plane minus a parachute?

Jack Traven - Speed (1994)

This LAPD cop is a contradiction wrapped in an enigma nestled within a flannel shirt.  He's a man of action.  Laconic in the face of danger, righteously pissed off in the face of his enemy.  Always quick with a deadpan quip, whether saving an elevator full of people, diffusing a bomb, or decapitating a mad bomber.

Scott Favor - My Own Private Idaho (1991)

A street hustler and a drifter just waiting for his wealthy father to die and hand over the inheritance.  Generally, Reeves projects a certain simple decency.  It's part of why he's played so many straightforward heroic types.  Here, though, that decency is replaced by a callow kind of sensitivity.  Just as Scott is Prince Hal to River Phoenix's Falstaff, Reeves here finds just the right tone, the perfect counterweight to Phoenix's performance as zoned-out narcoleptic.

Neo aka Thomas Anderson - The Matrix (1999), The Matrix Reloaded (2003), The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

If he hadn't been kicking cinematic ass in one way or another for fifteen years, Reeves probably would've been stuck as Neo forever, totally unable to separate himself from the association like many actors who've played iconic heroes in films that resonated so strongly with so many.  Especially in the first film, our man Keanu's elusive fuzziness works for the character, a man unmoored from the world as he knew it.  Even in the sequels, there's something that makes sense about a messiah with that kind of inscrutability.  Reeves' commitment shines through not only in his kung-fu physicality, but in the less tangible way that he truly seems to believe in this world.

Bob Arctor - A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Arguably the only movie that actually captures the feel of Philip K. Dick, this strange trip calls for a strong center, especially in the back half when the meltdown of identity really takes over.  Reeves is the man for the job, expertly utilizing the aforementioned fuzziness to play an undercover cop with an addiction and a deep, deep confusion.

Ted "Theodore" Logan - Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)

Sorry, Matrix, devotees, this is the role he was born to play, one that's actually more messianic than Neo.  In a lot of ways, Reeves epitomizes the stealth-intelligence of these two movies, which are far, far smarter than they look on the surface.  Wyld Stallions indeed.

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