Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Keanu Reeves has been the object of much mockery in recent years. We’ve all heard the jokes about his wooden performances (The Day My Face Stood Still and all the rest), and he has frequently chosen roles which unintentionally pander to those expectations. Besides Hayden Christiansen, he is perhaps unrivalled among actors in the level of popular derision he attracts.

But in spite of this, Reeves is capable of turning in a fine performance when he is given the right materials and a director who understands him. Like Nicolas Cage, he will go many performances of phoning it in and then deliver something a lot more interesting to remind us of why we made him a star in the first place. Long before he was immortalised in The Matrix, Reeves turned in a number of very fine performances in efforts both indie and mainstream, and for all the derision, he continues to enjoy a certain level of success.

So, to celebrate the release of his new film 47 Ronin, an action fantasy film set in 18th-century Japan, we’re taking a look back at the highs and lows of one of Canada’s most popular exports. And in time-honoured fashion, we begin with five performances which truly demonstrate his acting chops…

Write about Film and GET PAID. To find out more about the perks of being a Film contributor at WhatCulture.com, click here.

This article was first posted on December 27, 2013