I MET Keanu Reeves once. It was at the premiere of The Matrix Revolutions at the Sydney Opera House in 2003. By a stroke of luck I had made my way past security into the VIP area where Reeves, Paris Hilton and her sister and uber-producer Joel Silver were ensconced.
I wasn’t actually supposed to be there – my press pass only allowed me to mingle among the hoi polloi – but I acted like I belonged with the VIPs when I flashed my pass, which, of course, is the secret to gatecrashing everywhere.
Like the gaming nerd I am, I took the chance to congratulate the beautiful Jada Pinkett-Smith on her role in The Matrix video game. She was pleased by the compliment, no doubt used to hearing more commentary on her role in the movies.
Then it was on to talk to Reeves, who was sitting on a couch.
Reeves looked pretty much exactly like he did on screen: handsome, chilled-out, with eyes that bespoke a deep intelligence. And believe me, not every Hollywood star looks the same as they do on screen. Some, in my experience, look radically different: almost unrecognisable (no names … but you know who you are).
Anyway, I went up to Keanu and shook his hand.
“Good movie,” I said.
“Thanks,” he replied.
Then he yawned.
But that was OK. It’s a 16-hour flight to Sydney from the US.
Anyway, it would be more than a decade before Reeves would find another great action franchise.
And I believe he has found one with John Wick.
Described as one of the best action films of 2014, it’s a welcome return to form for Reeves, a pacy shoot-’em-up that reminds me of the excitement and vigour of the first Taken movie. The shooting scenes are particularly interesting as Wick takes down Russian Mafiosko close up, almost using his pistol as a third hand or extra fist.
Yet what stuck out in my mind was Wick’s motivation for bringing the pain: the Russian mafia killed his dog. Or rather, they killed the dog that was the last gift from his late wife. But still … it’s all about the dog, whose collar Wick keeps on his bedstand as a reminder to keep his rage fresh. Several Russians can’t believe that Wick would go postal over a pooch. After all, who goes all Rambo over a dog?
Still, it’s a welcome twist from the usual tired themes of revenge movies. The “they killed/kidnapped his wife and family … and now it’s personal” gambit has been played out in everything from Taken to Commando.
Let’s hope Hollywood makes more “alt-revenge” movies in the John Wick vein. I’d like to see a revenge fantasy based on a burnt-out Italian hitman taking revenge on the Russian mob for a bad customer rating on eBay. I’d book early online to see a psychopathic version of Sideways where snobs go at each other hammer and tongs because someone brought merlot to dinner. I’d definitely tape Revenge For Flipper … and at least watch the first 10 minutes of The Artisanal Bread Massacre.
Missing cats, neglected goldfish, overgrown hedges, crude personal graffiti on toilet walls, disses on Facebook, poor service in stores and social exclusion in high school now writ large in the adult mind are all real-world fodder for alt-revenge … providing said revenge is exacted on tough, demanding, armed foes and not, say, innocent teen fry cooks.
Perhaps a gun-toting gluten-intolerant could take their intolerance out on the gluten-loving world at large in some bizarre remake of Falling Down (“at first he was gluten intolerant … now he can’t tolerate anything”). Perhaps a $10,000 Apple Watch could be the McGuffin in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction II, the item avaricious gangsters fight and die over. Maybe pimped-out grocery carts could be transformed into Mad Max-style battle vehicles as the apocalypse comes to the frozen food section of your local grocery store (“Everyone is checking out on aisle nine in Store Wars: Episode III”).
I await Hollywood’s best efforts.
My new military thriller Game Of Killers is out now on Amazon.