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Keanu Reeves: Bullet-dodging and Franchise-rebuilding

Keanu Reeves is wanting to take a break from the John Wick franchise now that John Wick: Chapter 4 has been unleashed. Having found a second wind and stumbled into a renaissance with the John Wick character, it's amazing to think the actor has been in the business for almost 40 years. Now starting to resemble John Wick in the fourth installment of The Matrix, called The Matrix Resurrections, one wonders just how much of the Matrix franchise's resurrection belongs to the rediscovery of Keanu Reeves.

Keanu Reeves

Having respawned his career at the turn of the millennium with the revolution that was The Matrix, he probably owes a debt of gratitude to the Wachowskis who first considered Will Smith for the part of Neo before Reeves got involved. While it's a Bizarro world exercise to imagine a world where Will Smith starred in The Matrix instead of Keanu Reeves, his leading role in I, Robot and I Am Legend probably gives us a sense of how it could've turned out.

To his credit, Reeves has always been near the limelight throughout his career, now dominating social media thanks to his countercultural approach to celebrity. While it took the Canadian a good four years to find his way in Hollywood with a role in The Night Before and Dangerous Liaisons, his real breakthrough came playing Ted 'Theodore' Logan in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. A teenage slacker opposite Alex Winter as Bill S. Preston, this became Reeves's first experience of working within a franchise as the film's popularity led to an animated TV series, a sequel and more recently the latent sequel, Bill & Ted Face the Music.

At the same time of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey came another Keanu Reeves classic with Kathryn Bigelow's surfer heist thriller, Point Break. While Reeves didn't have a part in the remake, which may have been a stroke of luck based on just how underwhelming it was, he managed to prove himself as an action star. While he earned some respect by starring in Gus van Sant's My Own Private Idaho only to venture forth into Shakespearean waters with Much Ado About Nothing, it wasn't until Speed that Reeves truly left his mark as a name star.

Ironically a runaway success, which he once again dodged by not playing opposite Sandra Bullock in the terrible sequel Speed 2: Cruise Control, Reeves proved his bullet-dodging capabilities well before The Matrix. He did, however, have a few missteps with the offkey sci-fi thriller Johnny Mnemonic, which while laden with potential fell well short of expectations. Starring in Chain Reaction opposite Morgan Freeman saw the actor deliver the goods in a family-friendly actioner with A Walk in the Clouds offering a taste of his versatility as a romantic lead.

What signaled another dimension for Reeves was The Devil's Advocate, playing alongside Al Pacino and Charlize Theron. While not an essential Keanu Reeves performance as Kevin Lomax, the horror thriller served him well by showing he was equipped to play a vessel for the audience and hold his own against the likes of a fiery Pacino. A turning point for the Hollywood star, he reappeared on screens two years later to reinvent the action genre with the visual artistry of The Matrix.

While it was a bright shining moment, only to be repeated some 4 years later with a much-anticipated sequel, the in between years saw him biding his time with a series of middling movies from one sports comedy The Replacements to another with Hardball. While these movies weren't critical successes they weren't clangers either. Reteaming with Charlize Theron for Sweet November and going dark in The Watcher and The Gift, they had to be a step down from the pinnacle of success that was The Matrix.

Even following its own success turned out to be a trick best left unturned, discovering just how much of a miracle the first film really was in comparison with its sequels, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions and even The Matrix Resurrections. While this could possibly be attributed to a similar trajectory to Transformers as the series moves further and further from a grounded reality, it made Reeves a bit of a gamble.

While a name star, the actor didn't carry the full confidence of audience or critics, making him a welcome but not bankable actor. This dark horse and wild card aspect actually made him rather exciting as a lead and supporting act, giving viewers a sense of what to expect but not really being predictable enough to chalk up any guarantees. Constantine took a page from The Devil's Advocate and The Matrix to find him playing another John.

A Scanner Darkly went abstract, The Lake House kept him out-of-the-box, Street Kings ventured into more grounded action with a recall of Speed. Maintaining his shapeshifting ability he starred in Henry's Crime and returned to martial arts with 47 Ronin before landing the revenge thriller dubbed gun ballet with John Wick a decade ago. Tipping the hat to his role as Kevin Lomax with The Whole Truth, Reeves followed up his iconic renaissance with John Wick: Chapter 2 and eventually John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum.

Based primarily around the mood he brings to the character, his dark knight persona as an assassin and an endless cacophony of gun play, it's understandable that he wants to take a break. The character is already set to appear in Ballerina and with pre-production of John Wick: Chapter 5 underway, it seems that this franchise could become as demanding as Bond. Staring down a sequel for Constantine, it seems that Reeves has developed the power to resuscitate almost any movie with unfinished business from his filmography. While Johnny Mnemonic may not being getting a reboot and Speed's ship has sailed, the excitement around the 58-year-old's contributions just seems to be growing.