Kevin: Few people on this earth can claim they have sat in a theater and watched five Keanu Reeves movies in a row, and until last weekend CJ and I counted ourselves among those losers. That has all changed though thanks to “The Reevesolution,” an all-day celebration by the Alamo Drafthouse of a star whose filmography is as diverse as his background (Canadian citizen, born in Beirut, of Chinese, Hawaiian, and English descent). It was a day filled with awesome action throughout the streets of Los Angeles, copious use of the word “babes,” over-the-top villains, Gary Busey REALLY enjoying his “Calvin and Hobbes,” and a surprising number of appearances by the Prince of Darkness himself, Satan. The one constant though was our main man Keanu, so let’s take a look at how we spent what I’m sure we will consider on our death beds to be one of the greatest days of our lives:
The choice of “Speed” to kick off the day was an appropriate one, as it is the film that showed Keanu could play more than the nice but kind of dim character he had perfected in everything from “Parenthood” to “I Love You to Death” to even dramas like “River’s Edge.” Before “Speed,” the idea of Reeves as a SWAT team badass seemed absurd, but as soon as he’s introduced almost literally flying into the movie in his car you buy it completely. I think it was either Siskel or Ebert who got ribbed for genuinely asking why Keanu couldn’t get an Oscar nomination for “Speed,” but actually it is really impressive that someone so laid back in real life is actually one of the most convincing cops ever put on screen: he’s always scanning the room for potential threats, he chooses his words carefully even when making jokes, and he even pulls a gun on an innocent black motorist.
And Reeves does this without a lot of showy acting tics or macho tough guy posturing, instead conveying his character through small gestures like the way he always says “sir” or “ma’am” even under intense circumstances. I’m convinced that even the way he chews his gum with his mouth closed at the beginning was a conscious choice for his character, because you try doing it without opening your mouth once. It’s hard!
But while it showed us a new side to Keanu, in retrospect “Speed” was one of the last of the traditional old-school action flicks. Its director Jan de Bont previously served as John McTiernan’s director of photography on “Die Hard,” and if you didn’t know any better you would think McTiernan directed this is as well, since in both movies the camera is constantly moving but in a way that serves the action rather than making it look like a hyperactive three-year-old was shooting the film (cough, “Bourne” movies, cough). This was also back in the day when action movies almost always went out as R-rated, even though you could easily have cut this into a PG-13, as they did three years later with “Speed 2: Cruise Control.”
Sorry, but I have to bring up that elephant in the room. Reeves famously turned down the sequel in order to tour with his band Dogstar, which turned out to be a good move even though his career was kind of in a slump at the time. Since the chemistry between Reeves and Sandra Bullock had as much to do with why people loved “Speed” as the whole “bomb on bus” concept, the filmmakers should have either scrapped the sequel altogether or focused on Bullock’s character. But instead they obviously took a script written for the Jack and Annie characters and just swapped in a new guy played by Jason Patric.
Because seriously, nothing about her relationship with Patric in the sequel makes any sense. So apparently Annie and Jack broke up sometime after the events of “Speed,” and right after that she started coincidentally dating a guy who also happens to be a SWAT team member, although he is keeping that a secret from her. Oh and he apparently is working in the same SWAT unit as Jack, with Joe Morton and a bunch of other guys from the original making appearances. But no one ever explains what happened to Jack, and apparently none of his old SWAT buddies find it weird that Annie is dating this Jack 2.0, who they all talk to as if they have a lot of history together, once again as if this script was originally written for Keanu and they made no effort to update it. There is even a scene where Patric is nervously trying to propose to Annie, but why should we give a shit since we have zero previous attachment to this couple?
Also Glenn Plummer returns as the motorist from the original, and at least he finds it somewhat noteworthy that even in the Caribbean he is yet again being pressed into service to help stop a bomb by a Los Angeles SWAT member.
A couple of other notes:
– People in the audience had a good laugh about the way that Joe Morton needlessly yells at the cameraman who is recording Dennis Hopper’s video feed on the bus and turning into a loop. The poor guy is doing everything he says, but Morton is all “Record it, RECORD IT!” and “All right play it, PLAY IT!,” as if somehow yelling louder is gonna make the “record” function go any faster.
– I don’t know anyone who has ever ridden the L.A. subway system, yet it used to be a popular location for an action scene in movies. It is still under construction in “Lethal Weapon 3” and “Speed,” but finally looks completed by the time “SWAT” came out in 2003. Although when Jack finds the hole that Hopper used to steal the ransom money and goes in after him, how come none of his SWAT buddies follow after him?
– An early appearance by Richard Schiff as the unfortunate subway conductor who gets turned into Swiss cheese by Hopper, 23 years before he got verbally bitchslapped by our boy Gerard Butler in “Geostorm.”
– The way Reeves figures out Hopper has a camera in the bus – because Bullock is wearing an Arizona University Wildcats sweater and Hopper kept calling her “wildcat” – is one of those absurd things you just have to roll with in otherwise good movies. Good thing she didn’t go to Arizona State though.
CJ: As great as Reeves and Bullock are, my favorite part about “Speed” is Dennis Hopper. One thing movies these days are missing is villains who are just REALLY into their work. These days everyone is so damn put upon; where’s the joie de vivre that comes with taking away said vivre of others? Whether it’s Peter Dellaplane driving off while rolling up the window as his wife Sharon Stone says she needs to talk to him in “Action Jackson,” or Brad Wesley’s henchman laughing maniacally as he sets a home on fire – possibly killing a stable of horses and one old and sexually confused farmer in “Road House” – these guys loved what they did!
That is why Hopper is so great at this. You’ve got this bus hurtling down the highway, news choppers chasing after it, and multiple lives at stake, and here’s old Hoppy enjoying a bottle of refreshing Coca-Cola like it was the last one on earth, making sandwiches, catching some football on one of his 12 televisions, and dishing zingers to Jack as if he’s in the room. This guy GETS IT. I’m tired of bad guys who are always just so angry, need to prove something to show how angry they are, or angrily punch the walls. Screw that, I want bad guys who put the fun back in the game!
One question I had though is about the criminal who’s on the bus to begin with. We see Jack chasing the bus on foot, then later on the highway in his jeep, then commandeering a fancy Mercedes and crashing its door off, all in the name of getting on this bus. And here’s this jackass sitting on the bus the whole time 100% convinced a cop is making this much of an effort because of the crime HE apparently committed. But here’s the thing, if he’s riding the 2525 in L.A., clearly his crime is not “Stole millions of dollars and is also dressed head to toe in rare gems,” but is more likely “Shot his neighbor’s cat, by accident.” How egotistical is this guy to think all of Los Angeles has an APB out on him?
Kevin: Although did we ever find out what crime this guy supposedly committed off screen? I think we all assume some petty robbery or something, but for all we know Reeves could have been sharing the bus with a serial killer this whole time. Maybe the guy turns out to be the second-coming of “The Night Stalker,” gets away while everyone is watching the bus explode, and the sequel could have been Reeves now having to catch him.
“The Devil’s Advocate”
After the adrenaline rush of “Speed,” the second film of the day portrayed one of the greatest fears any man has: finding a paint color for your new house that your wife won’t second-guess later. Actually maybe that’s just me since that part hit a little too close to home, but I guess you could say the other big fear explored in “The Devil’s Advocate” is whether you could resist selling your soul to Satan. In this case that particular soul happens to belong to Reeves in the role he was born to play: a Southern good ol’ boy from Gainesville, Florida.
Actually Reeves’ hammy accent points to the main reason why “The Devil’s Advocate” has outlasted the other religious-themed, end-of-times movies like “Stigmata,” “Lost Souls,” “End of Days” that came around in the late-‘90s to capitalize on anxiety about the approaching millennium: beneath it’s ultra-serious veneer, it’s also a lot of fun. It’s a 2.5-hour slow-burn that’s not exactly a horror film and not exactly a comedy, although it does have some very creepy moments and it is also very funny. Honestly for most of the first hour or so you could probably cut out a few jump scares and turn the film into a straight-up legal thriller like “The Firm,” about a promising young attorney who discovers his bosses are into some very shady stuff.
Except in this case Reeves eventually finds out that not only is his boss the Devil, which is not exactly a huge shock based on the title, but that also the Devil is his father. This leads to the epic 20-minute climax that almost entirely consists of Pacino trying to sell Reeves on the idea of joining him in the fight against God, and not only would I have watched another 20 minutes of that because of how much fun Pacino is having, but I have to say he does make a pretty good case.
CJ: I actually saw this in the theater and owned it on DVD, so when it started playing I did a little mini fist pump to myself.
How can anyone dislike this movie? It’s got Al Pacino doing a 20-minute “Any Given Sunday”-style speech about the joys of fucking, drinking, and basically anything else you want to do in life. He also says God can be kind of cruel, which if you want to try and argue with, just remind yourself that the Patriots are about to play in their 8th Super Bowl this century.
This movie has it all though: Keanu dropping an incredible Southern accent but only on very specific words and at very random times; an overriding theme that bad guys are always pedophiles; and a young, baby-faced Charlize Theron proving that there is one person on this planet who can still look hot as shit despite letting her soul glo …
Speaking of Charlize, between her and Connie Nielsen, “The Devil’s Advocate” does not get enough credit for this 1-2 punch of breathtaking beauties. I don’t know about you guys, but during his final negotiation with the Devil, I would have had two questions:
1) Can you bring Charlize back to life?
2) Can she, Connie, and I live together?
Sorry Earth, what counter proposal could possible beat that? The beautiful mystery of nature and life? HAHAHAHA, yeah no thanks there Neil DeGrasse Tyson!!!
Also, Jeffrey Jones was in this and was busted for child pornography in 2002. Good lord, between the plot and the cast, there’s a lot of pedophilia connected to this movie.
There’s a scene in “Constantine” where Keanu Reeves – playing the eponymous demon-catcher – visits Hell by placing his feet in a pot of water and staring into the eyes of a cat, and the fact that the movie treats this as totally normal is one of the reasons why I always found it to be one of the more successful and underrated of the comic book adaptations this century. I can see why the film didn’t exactly take off like they hoped, since even though it is interesting and entertaining, it’s not exactly what you would call “fun.” For instance, rather than the typical “hero tries to stop blue light in the sky from destroying Earth” ending we have grown accustomed to with these movies, “Constantine’s” climax revolves around Reeves slitting his wrists and summoning Satan as he bleeds out on a dirty hospital floor.
(Oh yeah, this is the second Keanu movie in a row that features him having an extended conversation with an actor having a lot of fun playing the Devil, in this case Peter Stormare.)
“Constantine” also shares the same “show, don’t tell” approach to world building as the “John Wick” movies, so rather than getting bogged down over-explaining how its particular universe works, it trusts the audience to figure things out as the film goes along. And it was very prescient in casting Shia LaBeouf as a guy everyone finds annoying and wants nothing to do with, while it also ends on a high note by brutally killing him as well.
But CJ, were you aware that “Constantine” had a post-credits scene at the end? You and a number of audience members were in the bathroom at the time, but after the credits ended, all of a sudden we cut to Constantine in a cemetery putting his lighter on LaBeouf’s grave, but then he turns around to see that Shia is now an angel who then flies off into the sky. Based on the reaction among those in the theater, I think we were all shocked to see this, and are probably still among the few people who have ever sat through the credits all the way through to discover it.
CJ: I was totally unaware of this; had I known The Beef had another scene I would have stuck around in order to cheer on my glorious Transformers hero!
What I liked about Reeves’ portrayal of Constantine was that he never really was trying to be a decent person. He’s pretty clear that what he is doing is to help himself and himself alone, and that any benefit it provides someone else is purely coincidental. Hell, even at the end when he makes his sacrifice, he flips off the Devil, making it clear he knew all along he was working a technicality to get into Heaven. If anything, God should have been like “Woah, no one makes God out to be a fool. Now you have to live in Jacksonville.”
I also like the casting of Stormare as Satan, who too often is either portrayed as some insanely slick Wall Street type or a giant red beast. I can picture everyone on “Constantine” throwing out possible ideas, but finally going, “Ehh, what about Euro trash?”
“Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey”
Since we hadn’t had a comedy yet I had a feeling our fourth movie would likely be a “Bill and Ted” film, and I’m glad it was this one because I don’t really find the first all that funny (I mainly seem to remember most of the jokes being of the “Ha ha, Socrates doesn’t know what a Tower Records is!” variety). Don’t know what more to say about this one other than I laughed a lot, and it surprises you with some smart and subtle jokes amid the “dumb” humor. For instance, early in the film the main villain De Nomolos (a backwards reference to co-writer Ed Solomon) and George Carlin’s returning mentor character Rufus have one of those exchanges about how Rufus was De Nomolos’ prized student before he turned evil. I think I was the only one in the audience who laughed at the end when Rufus casually mentions that De Nomolos was his gym teacher, mainly because I love off-hand jokes like that.
There is also a great extended bit where Bill and Ted sneak into Heaven with the help of Death by jumping some people off screen and stealing their clothes. The way Keanu keeps sheepishly reminding Bill that they just mugged people in Heaven still cracks me up. Alex Winter did a Skype Q&A before the film, and while he spread the credit around to Reeves and the film’s screenwriters, the comedic sensibility of “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” has a lot in common with the underrated Winter-directed comedy “Freaked” (which features an uncredited appearance by Reeves as Oritiz the Dog Boy).
Oh yeah, if you are keeping score at home, this was the third Keanu movie in a row that featured an appearance by Satan, and the first which features an appearance by God, although we still don’t actually see him. Pacino’s description of him as an “absentee landlord” is apparently pretty accurate judging by these films.
CJ: I don’t have much to add to this, other than that it had more laughs than I remembered, and I enjoy the constant positive innocence Bill and Ted are imbued with. Maybe Bill and Ted are role models we should aspire to be.
The first four movies of the day had been dedicated to a great mix of crowd-pleasers like “Speed” and “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey,” along with more challenging yet still entertaining deep cuts like “Devil’s Advocate” and “Constantine,” but I think we still would have left disappointed had we not gotten our final film of the marathon: “Point Break.”
First, for anyone who wants to claim that Keanu has no range as an actor, I’ll note that “Point Break” and “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” came out within a week of each other, making 1991 the Summer of Keanu. That’s right, on the weekend of July 19th of that year, you could have had your own Keanu Double Feature, although for some reason more moviegoers apparently decided to go with “Regarding Henry” and a re-issue of “101 Dalmations.” Now it is easy for those of us who grew up on these movies to claim that action flicks were better back in the day, but thankfully “Point Break” offers definitive proof of this since they did try to remake it a couple of years ago, and the result was so uninspired and dull that CJ could only get through it while drunk.
Also, I know I already touched upon it in that review, but once again Johnny Utah is really not a very good FBI agent. He doesn’t even come up with the theory of the ex-Presidents being surfers, Gary Busey just serves that up to him. He also gets several people killed after targeting the wrong suspects because they were assholes to him on the beach, and only begins to suspect this other group of surfers he’s been hanging out with because of an off-hand comment about “ghosts.” Then he turns his back on the bank right as they are robbing it, before letting Ronald Reagan go and firing about 15 rounds in the air, which probably came down on some playground. Of course he only did this because he suspected it was Swayze, but then later he’s totally surprised and unarmed when Swayze and his crew show up at his house, even though he knew they were aware of where he lived.
Honestly I think we all agree that Gary Busey is the real hero of this movie, and I think the single biggest laugh the audience had all day was hearing Busey say, “Ha ha ha, this ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ is funny.” Actually I wish I could enjoy anything in life the way Busey’s character enjoyed reading the funny pages in that scene:
Also an early appearance by Tom Sizemore, who later showed up in a bigger role in Kathryn Bigelow’s “Strange Days,” as an undercover cop. Once again, as we noted in our “Black Hawk Down” post, is there an actor who has played more cops and soldiers in movies despite being less suited emotionally and psychologically for either of those positions in real life than Tom Sizemore?
Final exit question: If you mixed up a lot of Swayze’s dialogue from “Road House” and “Point Break,” would you be able to tell which piece of Zen philosophy came from which movie? I kind of feel like Bodhi is not far off from Dalton if Dalton had turned more to the dark side (let’s not forgot that at one point Utah says that he watched Bodhi stop off at a bar called “Patrick’s Roadhouse”).
CJ: Hell yes was I pumped for “Point Break”! First off, “The Fast and the Furious” did a poor job of trying to rip off “Point Break” because I assume Vin Diesel refuses to do any movie that doesn’t make him look like the baddest mofo around, while Swayze was like “Sure, I’ll be a surfer who is into really pansy stuff like spirituality and inner peace.”
Kevin, you forgot another great part that really should have had everyone questioning how good Johnny Utah is at his job. So the ex-Presidents’ whole shtick is they are in and out in under a couple minutes, don’t hit the vault, leave no trace, never fire a bullet, etc. From that alone, we can all agree that clearly the masterminds behind this must have a fairly impressive intellect. So Utah walks in and screams “This can only be the work of Anthony Kiedis!”
Fast forward to more of Utah’s undeniable proof, where we see Kiedis and his group jumping in their jeep and terrorizing motorists as they swerve in and out of the street, definitely drawing zero attention to themselves. In case we weren’t convinced though, Utah then takes us to their hideout, which is a broken down shithole where they are all passed out on a workday at 3 p.m. You actually believe that this is the band of highly trained and disciplined criminals you are after Utah? Although either way, I would have shot Kiedis just on general principle for looking like this:
Kevin: The important thing is that even though CJ and I have collectively attended similar Alamo marathons for Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise, Kurt Russell, Charles Bronson, and Burt Reynolds, the “Reevesolution” was our most successful one yet in that we didn’t feel the need to take an extended break at any point or check out early. That’s the power of Keanu! We can’t wait to see what movie star is next, although you could easily do another marathon for Reeves considering how many of his films are still on the table. If that’s the case I think CJ and I already have at least one that absolutely needs to be included: