Keanu Reeves’s Worst Ever Performance Is Leaving Netflix

By Nathan Kamal | 2 weeks ago

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Somewhere along the way, Keanu Reeves became a good actor. That is not meant as a slight to the star of Point Break; from the very beginning of his career as a teen heartthrob in the 1980s, he was immediately and obviously a star. His oddly chill, yet intense charisma was on display from the start in movies like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Parenthood. He was, however, pegged as having a very distinctly West Coast stoner vibe despite being primarily raised in Toronto. Keanu’s unique speech patterns (and likely, his ambiguous ethnicity) made him unusual and notable in Hollywood, but it also relegated him to roles that mostly required him to be kind of a weird kid. He has stretched himself and grown as an actor over the decades and acquired a surprisingly wide range of emotional reactions. However, one particular hit movie caught Keanu Reeves right in the middle of that awkward learning phase and produced his single worst performance ever. That movie is the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola gothic horror film Bram Stoker’s Dracula and it is leaving Netflix’s streaming catalog on April 30. 

gary oldman

In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola was in a rough place. The famed, bearded director was coming off a solid decade and a half of flops and misfires. While his Vietnam War phantasmagoria  Apocalypse Now is now regarded as a high point of his career and the New Hollywood film movement, it had financially wrecked his movie studio and received mixed reviews at the time. Follow-up films like One from the Heart, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, and The Cotton Club were all disappointments. He needed a hit and a combination of hot young stars and sexy gothic horror was sure to do that. Bram Stoker’s Dracula starred Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Gary Oldman, and the young people’s favorite, Anthony Hopkins, and became Coppola’s biggest and most critically applauded film in years. 

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Keanu Reeves was not part of that critical applause. In the film, he portrays Jonathan Harker, the British real estate agent who travels to Transylvania to meet Count Dracula (Gary Oldman in a variety of wigs) and ends up trapped in his castle as the vampire relocates to England. We will put this plainly: Keanu Reeves cannot do a British accent. He should never try to do a British accent. It makes no one’s life better to hear him attempt a British accent. Much as in his performance in Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing the next year, hearing Keanu Reeves speak in anything but his laconic, detached tones takes you right out of a picture. Keanu Reeves is such a distinctly modern figure that putting him in period clothing and language simply does not work. By the time the horror of his experiences in Transylvania has caused his hair to go prematurely gray and we see Keanu in a floppy wig, not a lot could convince us that he’s a 19th-century businessman. 

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Fortunately, aside from Keanu Reeves’ unfortunate inability at the time to portray anything outside a stoner or conflicted law enforcement agent, Bram Stoker’s Dracula has a lot going for it. Francis Ford Coppola decided to turn the adaptation of the seminal vampire novel into an homage to the early days of cinema, utilizing unusual and antiquated effects like iris shots, stop motion and forced perspective matte paintings. He deliberately avoided the burgeoning computer-generated imagery that was swiftly taking over Hollywood; given that most of the CGI of the time has aged incredibly poorly, the choice to avoid the cutting edge of the time for outdated effects actually makes it look more modern now. 

Keanu Reeves’ career was not particularly slowed down by his poor performance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which went on to gross over $200 million and was nominated for four Academy Awards (winning three, all for effects of some kind). He would go on to cement his action star status with Speed (or “The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down”) in 1994 and a few years after that, would become involved with a little movie called The Matrix that utilized his specific vocal delivery and presence as no other movie had done before or since. But if you want to see a movie that utterly failed to, get to Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker’s Dracula before the end of the month.