There are few action stars as iconic or that have enjoyed as much longevity as Keanu Reeves. Although he established himself as a star in the stoner comedy, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, he quickly rose up in a series of brilliant action films such as Point Break, Speed and of course, The Matrix. About two decades after these legendary roles, Reeves is still at the forefront of the genre, partly thanks to the success of the John Wick series, which reminded many people why they loved him in the first place. To celebrate the home release of John Wick: Chapter 2, we thought we’d round up his greatest action roles from over the years.
Point Break (1991)
In the same year that he starred in the sequel to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Keanu Reeves proved that he could be so much more and excel in different genres thanks to Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break. It is easily one of the greatest action films of the 90s, and one that has aged exceptionally and somewhat surprisingly well considering that it centres on a FBI agent who goes undercover to catch a gang of surfers that may be bank robbers. Despite the ludicrous set-up, Bigelow is able to create a high-adrenaline thrill ride full of majestic visuals, which utilizes Reeves and his co-star Patrick Swayze perfectly.
It is often said that the best action films have a simple but brilliantly executed premise, and this has never been more true than in Speed. Here, Reeves plays Jack Traven, a young police officer who must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph. Speed is unique in that it is able to create such intense energy, suspense and fun, and then completely sustain that for two hours. Beyond that, its success lies in its masterful knowledge of when to embrace the insanity of its premise and when to show restraint.
The Matrix Trilogy (1999-2003)
The Matrix trilogy is marked by a vast array of exceptional qualities, from its philosophical underpinnings to its iconic aesthetic and action sequences; it’s safe to say though that none of the films would have worked half as well without Keanu Reeves at the centre. In the role that he was born to play, Keanu is easily able to pull off Neo’s hapless bewilderment as he’s thrown down the rabbit hole at the beginning of the series, together with his growth into ‘the one’, a character capable of bringing down the matrix and destroying the controllers.
In this cult classic, Reeves stars as supernatural detective John Constantine who helps a policewoman prove her sister’s death was more than a suicide. While originally seen by many as a disappointing adaptation of the graphic novel Hellblazer, the film has risen in esteem over the years and has a hell of a lot going for it. It is visually outstanding and deceptively thoughtful as well as uniquely grounded in theological action/horror. As for Keanu Reeves, he seems happy to slyly parody the persona he established in The Matrix Trilogy.
John Wick (2014) and John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
A film centred around a hitman who comes out of retirement to exact revenge on the men who killed his puppy had no right to be as inventive or exhilarating as it was. And the same certainly goes for the sequel to that premise. However, thanks to masterful direction from Matrix stuntman Chad Stahelski, the creation of a subtly different futuristic world and a pitch perfect performance from Keanu Reeves, both films defied all expectations to become some of the best of his career. Perhaps an equally great accolade is that both films easily feature some the best fight sequences of Reeves’ lengthy career.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is available to own on 4k ultra hd blu ray™,blu -ray & dvd from June 12 and digital download from June 9
Click here to read Steve Clarke’s film review of Mindhorn.