Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.
In 2016, Peter Atencio released Keanu, which premiered at the 2016 South by Southwest Festival. Starring Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Method Man, Will Forte, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Nia Long, Rob Huebel, Jason Mitchell, Keanu Reeves, Luis Guzman, Tiffany Haddish, and Anna Faris, the film has grossed $9.5 million as of May 2.
When the Allentown Boys massacre a drug processing facility run by a Mexican drug cartel, they kill everyone but the gang’s leader’s cat, Iglesias. The cat escapes and the unassuming Rell finds him on his doorstep after getting dumped by his girlfriend. Rell takes an immediate liking to the cat and names it Keanu. However, two weeks later, Rell and his cousin Clarence go out for a movie and come back to find Rell’s house ransacked and Keanu missing. Now, they must infiltrate the 17th St. Blips and get Keanu back.
For the first film Key and Peele have put together as a duo, Keanu is a pretty decent watch. As an action comedy, it’s able to take a lot of the conventions used by straight action films and turn them on their head. For instance, there have been a lot of action films where the plot gets started by the main character’s girlfriend or family member getting taken and here it’s a small kitten that Rell only found a couple weeks ago, but it’s played up for all the drama that it can muster. The climax and ending are also great examples, considering that a high speed chase ensues and it’s between both main characters with Clarence chasing Rell who got into the car in the first place to get Keanu away from Bacon. What’s more is that it subverts the expectation that the heroes won’t face any sort of punishment for all the illegal doings they’ve committed over the course of the film simply because they acted in the name of good. Instead, they actually end up going to prison.
Alongside the interesting method of carrying out the plot, the film does have quite a bit of humor, displaying the sketch comedy background Key and Peele have established together on Comedy Central. Much of the humor does come in the aforementioned of turning the main action tropes on their head, but there’s a lot of other comedy that’s just straight up silliness. One great moment is when Rell and Hi-C are selling the newly created drug to Anna Faris and at the same time, Clarence is in the car with the rest of the gang members trying, and succeeding, at convincing them that George Michael is a black man and his music is perfect for those living the thug life. Clarence’s drug induced hallucination inside the George Michael music video that ends with him talking to Keanu is humorous as well, especially with the cat being voiced by Reeves.
The acting within the film is also pretty good, with Key and Peele seemingly having a great time with their roles and everything their characters are doing. Key as Clarence is able to greatly pull off those moments where his character has to go from the meekly timid husband and cousin he normally is to the seemingly tough and rough-edged street thug that he has to turn into in order to keep up appearances. This is seen greatly when his wife calls him when he’s in the strip club and he talks to her normally and changes his tone and personality to the persona and back within seconds when two Blips walk by. Further, the way this is carried out just shows how much Key is enjoying what he’s doing.
However, the film isn’t perfect and where it falls flat is its pacing. Key and Peele are both known for a comedy sketch show on television and the pacing shows that it’s where their strengths lie. While many of the scenes have a lot of humor in them, they just seem to go on for far too long, causing the humor to die slowly and painfully with the audience just hoping to move on to the next scene. In all honesty, it feels like the film could have been shortened by at least 20 minutes in order to make it flow better. However, this was only the first film that Key and Peele have produced together and it was halfway decent. It’s quite possible that in the future, they’ll be able to get their pacing problems fixed and turn out something even better than this.
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