THE UNITED STATES OF GEEKDOM
A podcast by geeks of all trades, for geeks of all trades. We will talk about comic books, movies, TV shows, and all things that make us geeks go tick. Power to the different!

Keanu It! – Reevesvising Patrick Swayze Films

JediCole here with a companion article to the latest USG episode that went live last night. There is an unmistakable species of screen chemistry that exists in Point Break between Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. On Swayze’s side of the equation is a profound sense of wonder. Mostly wondering why Keanu Reeves was cast in this film. Was everyone else in Hollywood busy that day? Sure Reeves is a bankable actor with several credits under his belt. And he brought with him a loyal following of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure fans still hoping that lightning will strike twice. On Keanu’s part there is a vacuous deer in the headlights look that he wears in every movie except both Bill and Ted films.

In the same way that the unlikely pairing of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder was a catalyst for success in a spate of feature films, the same could have been true of the Swayze/Reeves team. But alas it was not utilized and that incredible potential exists nowhere in the universe but on Bizarro World (where Reeves am the most hated actor). Why should we suffer then in a world without the movies that might have been? The answer is simple. We should not! So I give you now an outline of how Keanu Reeve’s presence in a variety of Swayze vehicles would have made them something more than they were on their own.


Roadhouse – I have said that this was the first Swayze film I’d ever seen. In reality I had seen the three that follow it on this list long before I experience the greatness that is Roadhouse. I never would have imagined I would have the fondness for this movie I do, but it is one of the greatest guilty pleasure films of all time. In fact it is rather staggering how many people I have met who list this movie on their personal guilty pleasure films list! Of the four movies showcased in this article (I am limiting it solely to movies starring Swayze in a leading role that I have actually seen), this is the one with which I am the most familiar.

Swayze plays Dalton, a one-name professional cooler who is like the nightclub management version of Kane in Kung-Fu. He travels from bar to bar imparting Zen wisdom and beating the living crap out of drunken yokels.  The owner of the worst possible dive bar in the world recruits a reluctant Dalton to work his magic and bring his establishment back from the brink of sawdust and eyeball covered floors.  Once he arrives for his new job Swayze sets about to find the crappiest car he can find, stock up on the parts that are most easily damaged, and befriend as many businessmen and co-workers as possible.  But you can't be a tough as nails good guy without rubbing a few people the wrong way.  And so he naturally runs afoul of the local low-rent gangster who runs the town like a thinner, taller Boss Hogg.

As he collects allies and adversaries and settles into his Smallville-inspiring barn loft apartment Swayze inexplicably charms the local ER doctor (who's duties at the rural hospital rival the abilities of the Professor on Gilligan's Island) who just happens to be an ex girlfriend of the bad guy!  A loose plotline serves to string together a series of fist fights like so much popcorn destined to decorate a rustic Christmas tree as Swayze and friends punch and kick their way to justice.  A grizzled old mentor is called in to meet his ineveitable demise, a girlfriend is threatened, and Swayze turns one-man-murder-machine in a pitched battle against henchman that invokes Brock Sampson from Venture Brothers!

Where does Keanu Reeves fit into all of this mess?  Why in the role of the affable drifter who stops in at the Double Duece for a drink one night and finally finds his home.  Impressed by Swayze's fighting prowess he convences the bounce extrodinere to train him in the ways of busting chops and cracking skulls.  Resistant at first, his co-workers convince him to take on the pretty-boy apprentice.  Especially since Swayze has recently cleaned house on the staff and they could really use the help for the montage of giving the bar a facelift.  Reeves' enthusiasm for entering the field of bar bouncing is matched only by his total lack of skill.  Swayze is considering giving up on him just before the war between the business owners and thier opressive crimelord enemy explodes in a fever pitch.

Reeves is kidnapped along with Swayze's girlfriend and both are held hostage in the mansion of the gangster.  After wrecking his good car and dispatching 15-20 men, Swayze finally confronts his arch-nemesis and barters for the life of his friends.  The two engage in a fight utilizing spears and other arhaic weapons while sole remaining henchman, a slobbering man child, watches gleefully on from the corner of the trophy room.  Reeves attempts to break his bonds and serves only to knock a stuffed polar bear onto the henchman and the bad guy alike. For good measure a quartet of local businessmen arrive on the scene to make sure more than a dead bear falls on their former opressor by administering lethal doses of hot lead.  In the end both Swayze and Reeves depart the town which, like a modern day Rock Ridge, has been deemed safe from their personal Hedley Lamarr. 


Ghost – For many this was the ultimate Swayze romance movie. At least for those not into dance numbers. If you are unfamiliar with this flick it is all about the enduring power of love that not even death can destroy. And solving a groovy mystery, too. Swayze plays a guy who gets croaked but won’t move on in an inspiring-The-Sixth-Sense kind of way. He has weird undead touchy-feely ghost sex things with his still living wife, learns how to make his presence known in the physical plane thanks to a butt-ugly dead bum, and freaks out Whoopie Goldberg. But what about Ghost with Keanu Reeves?

Reeves plays a fellow ghost in this rethinking of the movie. Like Swayze he cannot seem to go toward the light. Unlike Swayze it is not undying love that holds him in limbo between this life and the next. He simply is too stupid to completely die. He routinely teeters on the edge of passing into the world beyond but gets distracted by things on this side and wanders back. Despite an innate inability to make physical contact with anything sold, converse with those he sees around him, or feel the pressures of physical requirements like eating food or passing waste he remains oblivious to his present state.

After Swayze’s encounter with the ghost bum who acts as his spectral personal trainer he attempts to pay it forward by befriending the confused apparition he soon encounters. Reeves then follows Swayze incessantly throughout the remainder of the story, spoiling his private moment during his wife’s pottery bereavement therapy session by wandering in to complain that he can’t seem to pick up the bottle of Crystal Pepsi he found in the fridge.

Reeve’s presence drives Swayze forward in his bid to have his own murder solved. To escape the senseless spirit who has become his unwanted sidekick he utilizes Goldberg’s help to contact his wife and bring his killer to justice far quicker than in the original version. In the end a profound longing for the sweet embrace of oblivion wins out over the power of everlasting love, trumped by an annoying and constant presence in the afterlife. The movie ends with Whoopie Goldberg going mad because Reeves now realizes that at least there is someone in the world who can see him, though she cannot convince him that he has passed away.


To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar – It is a buddy picture and a drag queen picture that puts to shame anything ever featuring Divne! What happens when you get two tough-guy actors and one comedic actor no one can stand, even himself, to dress up in drag and play it gay? You get comic gold! Pure comic gold freshly mined from the often elusive veins of comic gold that riddle the Hollywood hills.

This unlikely trio are transformed into drag queens on a cross-country road trip to the sunny west coast and drag pageant fame. With a stolen photograph in hand they inevitably run afoul of the small-mindedness of the rural stereotypical south. When Swayze inadvertently knocks cold a would-be rapist sheriff and leaves him for dead the contest hopefuls become fugitives. In a Doc Hollywood meets Paris is Burning moment they find themselves stuck in the middle of nowhere and become involved in small-town life. Both the residents of the backwater burg and the cross-dressers discover that their perceptions of one another’s cultures are misguided at best and in time strike an accord that rallies the town to the aid of their three new friends. And glams the living Hell out of the annual Strawberry Festival!

By adding Reeves to the mix the unbalanced trio becomes an even four. Reeves plays another young drag queen just getting started in the pageant circuit. Like Leguizamo’s character, Reeves is taken under the wing of the two more experienced queens. Throughout their lengthy journey the rest of the group begin to loose faith in their companions’ ability to successfully pull off being a man in woman’s clothing. But when the Sheriff’s attentions switch from Swayze to Reeves (as he is unable to determine which one is “pertier”), they come to realize that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Determined to advance the careers of both of their protégés, Snipes and Swayze take them along on their mutual lam from the law when they mistakenly think they have murdered the lawman lothario.

Along the way Reeves begins to not only refine his feminine style but also illustrate some capacity for advanced thought processes. When they departed New York he was prone to less than encouraging statements. The most notable was his remark regarding the Julie Newmar photograph, “Whoa! Julie Newmar! Didn’t she play Batman?” By the time their car breaks down in the little hick town he has begun to speak and act with a level of eloquence that surprises his traveling companions and impresses the townsfolk. He even delivers the final soliloquy to the Sheriff that secures the end of his Captain Ahab-level pursuit and the drag queens’ freedom. The film concludes with both of the younger cross-dressers tying for the title of Drag Queen of the Year. A raucous group laugh concludes the picture after Julie Newmar herself presents their award and Reeve’s remarks, “Hey! It’s Batman!”


Red Dawn – Perhaps the ultimate film on this list. It takes all of the teen angst of The Breakfast Club and inserts it into the deadly serious themes of Apocalypse Now. In the kids vs. the Cold War genre, which includes such notables as Wargames and Cloak and Daggar, not even Born American hits home like Red Dawn!

It begins like any school kids’ dream. An unexpected early end to the school day, indeed the school year. But you should be careful what you wish for when daydreaming thorough your grade school history lecture about such things or the last thing going through your mind will be a bullet from the AK-47 of a trigger-happy Cuban soldier!

After massacring an entire classroom in a calculated surgical strike the Cubans and their Russian masters make short work of taking over a sleepy mountain town.  But they do not account for one vital fact in their invasion plans. That from the start of the Cold War, in addition to being taught to hide under indestructible desks during nuclear war, every single American child was trained in the deadly art of warfare. From the Little Golden Book of Sun Tzu to the more advanced high school text Killing the Red Menace, an entire generation was schooled in the five Rs. Reading, ‘Riting, ‘Rithmatic, and ‘Radicating Ruskies.

It is innocence lost a go-go as Swayze rounds up his brother and a bunch of his friends and heads out to the most convenient convenience store in the nation. But when you live in these rural towns it is important to have one stop shopping for Jiffy Pop and hunting arrows. Borrowing a survival page from The Deer Hunter, the kids all make for the mountains to winter on venison and Ranch Style Beans while routinely making short forays into enemy territory to foul the Soviet war machine and buy a rather conspicuous surfeit of toothbrushes.

Their early successes underscore the importance of not allowing anyone over the age of 21 into your rebel band. No sooner does Powers Booth fall from the sky to be the object of the boys’ awe and the girls’ getting that funny little tingle in the nether regions sensation than the tide turns in the favor of the enemy. A turncoat in their ranks and the arrival of massive assault helicopters have a culling effect on their ranks. After months of monkey-wrenching the American campaign, committing countless war crimes that are overlooked as youthful high spirits, and even forcing a Stacy Keach-looking Russian Special Ops agent to have to slum it in their home town, the kid commandos are reduced to just Swayze.

What can Keanu Reeves bring to the mix? Reeves wanders into the mountain encampment of our heroes while they are away slaughtering indigenous wildlife and invading foreign nationals. Like a much needed breath of fresh air, he provides comic relief amidst the stifling gravity of the battle ridden plotline. In retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears with deadly earnest the young warriors return to their encampment to discover an intruder who has eaten the last of their Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, broken a camp stool (that really was on the edge anyway), and is napping in the discarded sleeping bag (the one that raccoon got trapped in and peed itself).

While Swayze’s impulsive brother immediately suspects Reeves to be a Russian spy, a brief interview with the newcomer convinces the older sibling he is not. “As dad used to tell us, there’s a kind of stupid you just can’t fake”. While initially dismissed as impossibly incapable, Reeves’ antics soon lead to accidental heroics that earn him a special place in the hearts of the group and even a modicum of respect. While the rest of the kids were buried in snow banks, sheathed in white combat jumpers awaiting the Russian tracking crew, Reeves was on a nearby hillside making a snowman. When he lost control of one of the torso portion of his creation and rolled helplessly down the incline he manages to knock over two soldiers who were hidden apart from the main detachment. What could have ended in a disastrous surprise attack was thwarted by Reeves’ seeming heroics.

In the end the ranks of the town’s sole defenders dwindle to just Swayze and Reeves. While the goodly Cuban commander who misses his wife and the warmer tropical climes of home still allows Swayze to depart with his brother’s mortal remains, in this version it is solely on the condition that he take Reeves with him as he had been briefly a prisoner of the enemy toward the end of the film.


I hope you enjoyed this look at an alternate view of some of Patrick Swayze's most memorable films which were somehow produced without the benefit of Keanu Reeves.  Would he have elevated them to new heights?  Would the teaming turn into a studio cash cow?  Can Kenau Reeves ever learn to really act?  As Mrs. JediCole put it..."We may never Keaknow!"




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