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Metro In Focus: Keanu Reeves cashing in on his charisma in John Wick

By Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

This weekend one of the most multipurpose and enduring movie stars of the past 30 years returns to the screen. Kevin Spacey? No.

Daniel Day-Lewis? Na’ah. Gary Oldman? Nyet. It’s Keanu Reeves.

Wait! Isn’t he the guy critics love to hate? That Reelviews said was, “an actor of exceptionally limited scope” just as the Daily Mail called his performance in Constantine an “impersonation of a sleep-walking plank”?

Yes, one in the same. He’s The Matrix’s Neo, the Ted of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Point Break’s Johnny Utah.

This weekend he’s the title character in John Wick: Chapter 2, a down-and-dirty noir and follow up to the original 2014 hit.

The actor’s latest incarnation represents another reinvention in a career spent keeping audiences guessing. He’s gone on existential journeys, wooed Diane Keaton and played a peaceful extraterrestrial ambassador but Wicks is something else again.

The Wick movies are set in an alternative world of assassins where hit men and women are paid in special coins, stay in exclusive hotels — with killer views no doubt — and speak in a strangely formal way.

They see themselves as professionals with a civilized code of conduct… except that there is nothing civilized about the work they do. In the first film Wick was an assassin so tough he didn’t bother to take off his gore-soaked shirt when beginning his bloody quest for vengeance.

John Wick, the movies and the character are blunt, über macho instruments, brought to life by Reeves in a performance that cripples the argument Today.com made that he is simply a “reciter of dialogue.” First of all there is very little dialogue.

The opening 15 minutes of the first film is essentially a silent movie kept interesting by Reeves’s action hero charisma.

Unlike Meryl Streep he can’t do accents and he doesn’t have the range of some of his former co-stars like Oldman but what he does have is presence.

At his best Keanu understands how to be on screen. Author Bret Easton Ellis said that Reeves “is always hypnotic to watch,” and what is a movie star if not someone you can’t take your eyes off?

The Wick movies cap a busy and unpredictable time for the actor. After Speed and The Matrix he could have stuck to action films and made a career running, jumping and kicking people. Instead he diversified, jumping from romances like Sweet November to crime dramas like The Watcher to The Replacements, a sports comedy.

From studio movies to indies he is unpredictable in his choices, defying expectations. Take his erotic horror thriller Knock Knock for instance. He plays a man held captive in his own home by three female home invaders. It’s not a remarkable movie — I called it “deeply unpleasant” in my review — but what makes it interesting is Keanu’s character’s complete inability to protect himself. Most A-listers wouldn’t allow themselves to be portrayed as such easy prey, but Keanu relishes the chance to upend our view of him.

For sure Reeves has made some bad movies and even been bad in some movies but that sometimes happens when actors don’t play by the rules.

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