A&E » Film

Keanu the Redeemer



People used to make fun of Keanu Reeves. For ages he was dismissed by armchair cinephiles as a one-trick pony whose acting range existed entirely within the space between "dude" and "bro."

Certainly, as a youth Reeves' rise to stardom saw him typecast in roles like teenage stoner (Bill & Ted, Parenthood), surfer (Point Break), anxious plainclothes cop (Speed), or dude wondering how he ended up in a Victorian vampire movie (Bram Stoker's Dracula), but after being nominated for six Golden Raspberry "Razzie" Awards (usually for Worst Actor) throughout the 1990s, he bounced back with one of the most influential and critically acclaimed sci-fi actioners of our time, 1999's The Matrix. Synonymous with the role of Neo, Reeves then spent the better part of the next decade in the shadow of his own success — big studios just weren't calling.

The Keanu naysayers definitely shut up after the first John Wick came out in 2014 though. His acting was on point, sure, but more likely it was for fear of getting their arms broken in three places. At 50 years old, Keanu Reeves became a bankable action star and a veritable ass-kicker. He trained hard and the onscreen results were good enough to not only salvage his reputation (the Razzies gave him a "Redeemer" award) but also warrant a sequel — John Wick: Chapter 2 opens this week at the Whistler Village 8.

With original director (stunt expert Chad Stahelski) onboard again, John Wick is back from retirement a second time by an old blood-debt and on his way to Rome for that last job. Of course, it is not really the last at all, and his troubles intensify a zillionfold when he lands back in New York and embarks on an utterly bonkers "gun-fu" rampage that's part The Warriors, part John-Woo-Honk-Kong action flick, and all orchestrated carnage. Reeves is in top form, the supporting cast is tight (including Laurence Fishburne and Ruby Rose), and, although a touch long, John Wick: Chapter 2 is exactly what Wick fans want: a ballet with a body count.

Also opening, The Lego Batman Movie is a sugar-trip, technicolour version of the Batman mythology that succeeds in adding to the cadre by mixing character affection with irreverenc. This is a light take on the Dark Knight and it works. It's Deadpool humour for kids, a self-referential feast for fans, and the best DC movie in years.

Will Arnett voices the titular hero as such a solipsistic loner that even the Joker begins to feel kind of bad for him... so he kicks off a citywide spree of mayhem while the Gotham politicos question the morality of vigilantism. With a colourful cast of supporting characters and a 10-joke-a-minute frenzied pace, The Lego Batman Movie gives us the most human Batman in ages. It doesn't quite hit the emotional and metaphysical heights of the original Lego Movie plot, but it's pretty damn fun regardless. Kids will go apeshit of course, and the toy stores are already overflowing with movie-specific LEGO subsets (Guitar-wielding Batman mini-figure in a KISS outfit anyone)?

Valentine's Day also occurs sometime around now so there has to be a date movie. Fifty Shades Darker also opens this week (with no press screenings) but the trailer looks bad so you'll just have to risk it if you want the risqué. One thing's for certain though, Dakota Johnson is a fox and this is the first Valentine's date movie in a while to carry an 18A rating. In the Internet age, do teenagers still try to sneak into these kinds of movies? I doubt it.

But speaking of teenagers, Riverdale is a new series available on Netflix that puts a modern and dark spin on the old gang from the Archie comics. And by modern and dark I mean murder, intrigue, and Ms. Grundy is young, hot and having sex with Archie. The wisdom behind basing the main conflict of a TV series on statutory rape remains to be seen, and two episodes in, Riverdale is looking more Jawbreaker than Heathers, but I'll watch anything that ends in prom.

In the meantime, who do you think would win in a fight between John Wick and Batman?