SHOCK cites four times that actor Keanu Reeves exhibited some very bad behavior.
Pop culture first fell in love with Canadian-born actor Keanu Reeves because of his surfer dude alter ego in the hit 1989 comedy/fantasy BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE and that that persona carried onto the myriad roles that followed its success.
But that spaced-out-nice-dude impression was a double edge sword.
Certainly, it made his name but it also cursed Reeves’ career critically, with film journos being increasingly unkind and audiences eventually throwing their hands up, both accusing him of being a limited actor and a most terrible purveyor of accents.
Now, the former accusation is unfounded as even a casual glance at Reeves’ diverse resume reveals a performer who takes chances and pushes himself. That said, at one point, the latter slight may have been true.
Witness his unfortunate turn in Francis Ford Coppola’s epic Gothic horror film BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, wherein a mis-cast Reeves comically struggles to deliver his lines with a stilted English accent that comes and goes like an island breeze. So lost was Reeves in this role, that it would have surprised no one had he uttered a slack-jawed “Woahhhh” when assaulted by Dracula’s blood-hungry brides.
But yes, Reeves has always been a good actor and, growing up in cinema, he’s arguably become a great one. And while there have been many movies were Reeves was called on to navigate darker environments, everything from 1986’s harrowing lost teenager psychodrama THE RIVER’S EDGE to THE MATRIX trilogy (where that aforementioned stoner riff was buffed to an operatic gloss) to the current, ultra-violent JOHN WICK movies, Reeves has only played a real deal bastard in a handful of pictures.
But when he does…look out.
As Nicolas Winding Refn’s mesmerizing expressionist horror movie THE NEON DEMON (read our review here) gets ready to unravel this Friday in unsuspecting theaters across the planet, we are reminded of just how awesomely hideous Reeves can be when he uses his powers for bad.
In THE NEON DEMON, he plays Hank, the malevolent manager of the dive motel where Elle Fanning’s Jesse finds herself staying. And although he doesn’t actually receive a lot of screen time, his presence is arresting.
In honor of Reeves’ current screen incarnation, SHOCK opted to pick four flicks where the actor channeled his inner scumbag to grand effect.
THE WATCHER (2000)
This underrated slasher thriller is ripe for re-discovery, despite the fact that Reeves claims he was duped into starring in the film after a friend forged his signature on the contract! In it, the ever-intense James Spader plays a cop whose co-dependent relationship with serial killer David Griffin (Reeves) has him on edge. This was Reeves’ first turn as a real deal villain and what a monster he is. As Griffin, the actor never meets a female throat he doesn’t want to open. It’s great to flash back to this stylish film today, to see Reeves reveling in playing such a character, something so against type. However, upon release critics panned the picture, blaming the actor primarily for its faults, with those jerks at the Razzie Awards snidely saddling him with a Worst Supporting Actor award. They were wrong, of course.
THE GIFT (2000)
Sure, Reeves’ wife-beating prick Donnie Barksdale doesn’t go around murdering women in Sam Raimi’s deft supernatural thriller, but he murders their souls. His Donnie is a rural good old boy who batters, berates and terrorizes hie long-suffering wife (Hilary Swank) and threatens to murder her friend, local psychic Annie (Cate Blanchett) and her children. Even when Donnie is framed for a murder he didn’t commit, the audience doesn’t care, he’s that despicable. Reeves exploits his dark eyes and spotty facial hair to maximum effect here, playing an irredeemable and broken beast of a man who is dripping with hatred and ignorance. And his southern accent is pretty damned good!
KNOCK KNOCK (2015)
Eli Roth’s remake of 1977’s DEATH GAME is a typically lurid Roth romp, one that is well made enough to keep you watching, even if you feel like you need a shower afterwards. But that’s the film’s point, presumably; to soak you in ugly characters and leave you scrambling for someone to root for. In it, Reeves is ostensibly our protagonist, a faithful husband and father who has the house to himself for the weekend when two young girls come to call. The family man is easily seduced and has a threesome with the girls. But the next morning, it becomes clear he’s the victim of a ruse, a game that the underage girls play to ruin men’s lives. Though not an obvious human monster like in the previous pictures, Reeves’ Evan ushers in his own downfall, hypocritically condemning the women for his indiscretions and, because of this, setting forth a series of destructive and lethal events. The thing that makes Reeves so hideous in this movie is his lack of remorse or accountability. He’s excellent in the role. And rather loathsome.
THE NEON DEMON (2016)
Haunting the diseased LA motel in Refn’s magnum opus, Reeves’ Hank is the physical embodiment of the shadowy building itself. Prowling the perimeters of the dump, predatory and unsavory, Hank is the ultimate scumbag, leering at and dominating and berating women, ostensibly extending a helping hand before extorting money and potentially keeping an underage runaway as a sex slave. As the film itself slips into fantasy, it’s not clear, but Hank may even get into even more unsavory crimes. Either way Reeves, who was on set briefly and whose role is minimal, is clearly having a blast stalking the frame, making his collective minutes on screen matter. An unforgettable and unsavory supporting turn in an equally unforgettable movie.