What can we glean from Keanu Reeves's frenzied schizophrenia in his choice of roles? Adventurous? Confused? Trying to move fast so the crap won't hit him? Recently, he's hopped from Bertolucci's Little Buddha (right) to a cameo in Even Cowgirls Get The Blues to the adrenalin-laced thrills of Speed and the forthcoming Johnny Mnemonic. He began work two days ago on Alfonso Arau's A Walk in the Clouds, and is pencilled in for the Tom Clancy thriller Without Remorse. Had he been twentyish in the Sixties, he might have filled an afternoon or two by filming Warhol depravathons like Bike Boy or My Hustler.
But Reeves shares most with his friend and sometime co-star, the late River Phoenix. Both began in teen-suicide trash, progressed to cult hits and converged on a botched comedy (I Love You to Death) and a messy art-house drama (My Own Private Idaho). After Reeves battled Patrick Swayze in Point Break, Phoenix stooged for Robert Redford in Sneakers. Phoenix had his REM-ish band Aleka's Attic; Reeves played bass in Dog Star. While Reeves's career took off (Dracula, Much Ado About Nothing), Phoenix consistently plumped for small projects (Dogfight, The Thing Called Love, Silent Tongue). River was the pretty, talented one, Keanu the pretty, dumb one.
Had he lived, Phoenix wouldn't have followed his friend's route to Hollywood. He just didn't play that game. Meanwhile, Reeves is raking top dollar in his position as action hero. Speed (opening on 30 September) is one of the year's best films, and Johnny Mnemonic, described as Demolition Man with good hair, may prove the cult/mainstream crossover hit that he has yet to bag.
Leaving a screening of Speed, two waifish women flapped uncontrollably. 'I don't care if he is thick as pig-shit,' one said breathlessly, 'He's gorgeous'. And there can surely be nothing more eloquent, or more telling, to say about the man.
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