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Dan Bernardi
[intro-text size=”25px”]Tired of the same monotonous review schemes, I volunteered for a series of alternative, high-tech experimental procedures. Monitored by the Director and crew, I am mentally displaced and implanted into a myriad of cinematic simulations, or “cims”. Fully absorbed for the duration of each run time, the sole mission is to report my findings from within the scenes. These reports are known as Total Review.[/intro-text]

– CIM #1004 – “KEANU” – 98 mins. – release: Apr. 29th, 2016 –

I’m plugged into the cimulator and as the lights fade I’m already brandishing a grin. I’m a huge fan of  Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele, a very funny duo who proved their comedic aptitude over five seasons of their excellent sketch series Key & Peele. Featuring a plethora of amazingly zany characters, each skit was executed with impressive visual flare. This week’s cim, Keanu, marks their first foray into feature territory, and I have no idea what’s in store other than presumed laughs- hence the grin.

The cim starts. Immediately the grin is wiped away. I’m in a seedy drug den in Allentown with some seriously mean motherfuckers. That’s exactly the kind of language they use, too. Things go south fast and I find myself in the middle of an epic shootout, initiated by two men in black trench coats with moves straight out of The Matrix. In the heat of the battle, dodging bullets and blood, is the cutest kitten I’ve ever fucking seen. Amidst all the chaos, the kitten makes it out and hits the streets.

Now I’m sitting in Rell Williams disheveled apartment. He’s my type of guy. Aside from recreational paraphernalia strewn about, he’s got posters for Heat and New Jack City on the wall. But Rell is not a “hard” dude. He’s depressed and crying over a bad breakup, and calls his cousin Clarence over to console him. Clarence has his own problems. He’s a nice guy. Too nice. But before Clarence arrives to help his cuz, our little survivor kitty shows up on Rell’s doorstep and Rell falls in love immediately. He names the cat “Keanu” (it means “cool breeze” in Hawaian.)

After a boys night out, we get back to the apartment to find it ransacked- and Keanu is no where to be found. Things were just looking up for Rell, but now he’s triggered, and dead set on finding his cat. Naturally Clarence won’t let him go it alone. The duo set out to find those responsible, and things take a dark and gritty turn as they enter a world in which they don’t belong: gang territory. These gangstas are packing heat, finger on the trigger ready to pop a cap in a mothafucka. The atmosphere of the cim shifts. We are in very scary turf. I am out of place, frightened, and laughing.

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It is absolutely hilarious watching Rell and Clarence attempt to blend in. Neither of them are menacing, have the lingo down pat, or dressed for the part. But that won’t stop them from lowering voice to a baritone and dropping some N-words to really sell it. And miraculously, the gang members, even the top brass- Cheddar-  hesitantly believe that they’re the badasses who shot up Allentown and are not to be fucked with. Naturally, they ride that wave as far as they can, with the hopes of recovering Keanu, which proves to be no simple task.

I had a blast in Keanu. It was a solid action-buddy-comedy that turned many of the genre’s tropes on their head. It didn’t skimp on the pop culture references, and as a child of the 80’s/90’s, I can appreciate the multitude of dated callbacks, especially Clarence’s obsession with George Michael. While clearly a riff on John Wick, Key and Peele crafted a solid story that stands on its own four legs, touching on themes of devotion, identity, and consequence, all while the jokes and bullets fly. If you ain’t too tough to laugh, mothafucka, go check out Keanu today.

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