Reeves was soon drawn to science fiction roles, appearing in Chain Reaction (1996) with co-stars Morgan Freeman, Rachel Weisz, Fred Ward, Kevin Dunn and Brian Cox. He plays a researcher of a green energy project, who has to go on the run when he is framed for murder. Chain Reaction was not a critical success and received mostly negative reviews; film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating of 16% and described it as "a man-on-the-run thriller that mostly sticks to generic formula". Reeves' film choices after Chain Reaction were also critical disappointments. He starred in the independent crime comedy Feeling Minnesota (1996), with Vincent D'Onofrio and Cameron Diaz, which was described as "shoddily assembled, and fundamentally miscast" by Rotten Tomatoes. That same year, he turned down an offer to star in Speed 2: Cruise Control, despite being offered a salary of $12 million. According to Reeves, this decision caused 20th Century Fox to sever ties with him for a decade. Instead, Reeves toured with his band Dogstar, and appeared in the drama film The Last Time I Committed Suicide (1997), based on a 1950 letter written by Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac. In a scathing review of Reeves' performance, Paul Tatara of CNN called him "void of talent ... here he is again, reciting his lines as if they're non-related words strung together as a memory exercise".
Following Speed, Reeves' next leading role came in 1995, in the cyberpunk action thriller Johnny Mnemonic. It is based on the story of the same name by William Gibson, about a man who has had a cybernetic brain implant. As part of the film studio's marketing efforts, a CD-ROM video game was also released. The film, however, received mainly negative reviews and critics felt Reeves was "woefully miscast". He next appeared in the romantic drama A Walk in the Clouds (1995), which also garnered mixed-to-negative reviews. Reeves plays a young soldier returning home from World War II, trying to settle down with a woman he married impulsively just before he enlisted. Film critic Mick LaSalle opined, "A Walk in the Clouds is for the most part a beautiful, well-acted and emotionally rich picture", whereas Hal Hinson from The Washington Post said, "The film has the syrupy, Kodak magic-moment look of a Bo Derek movie, and pretty much the same level of substance". Besides film work, Reeves retreated briefly back to the theatre playing Prince Hamlet in a 1995 Manitoba Theatre Centre production of Hamlet in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Sunday Times critic Roger Lewis believed his performance, writing he "quite embodied the innocence, the splendid fury, the animal grace of the leaps and bounds, the emotional violence, that form the Prince of Denmark ... He is one of the top three Hamlets I have seen, for a simple reason: he is Hamlet".More Info
In 1991, Reeves starred in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, a sequel to Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, with his co-star Alex Winter. Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times felt that the sequel was "more imaginative, more opulent, wilder and freer, more excitingly visualized", praising the actors for their "fuller" performances. Film critic Roger Ebert thought it was "a riot of visual invention and weird humor that works on its chosen sub-moronic level ... It's the kind of movie where you start out snickering in spite of yourself, and end up actually admiring the originality that went into creating this hallucinatory slapstick". The rest of 1991 marked a significant transition for Reeves' career as he undertook adult roles. Co-starring with River Phoenix as a street hustler in the adventure My Own Private Idaho, the characters embark on a journey of personal discovery. The story was written by Gus Van Sant, and is loosely based on Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V. The film premiered at the 48th Venice International Film Festival, followed by a theatrical release in the United States on September 29, 1991. The film earned $6.4 million at the box office. My Own Private Idaho was positively received, with Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly describing the film as "a postmodern road movie with a mood of free-floating, trance-like despair ... a rich, audacious experience". The New York Times complimented Reeves and Phoenix for their insightful performances.More Info
Towards the end of the 1980s, Reeves starred in several dramas aimed at teen audiences, including as the lead in The Night Before (1988), a comedy starring opposite Lori Loughlin, The Prince of Pennsylvania (1988) and Permanent Record (1988). Although the latter received mixed reviews, Variety praised Reeves' performance, "which opens up nicely as the drama progresses". His other acting efforts included a supporting role in Dangerous Liaisons (1988), which earned seven nominations at the 61st Academy Awards, winning three: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Production Design. This was followed by Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), in which he portrays a slacker who travels through time with a friend (portrayed by Alex Winter), to assemble historical figures for a school presentation. The film was generally well-received by critics and grossed $40.5 million at the worldwide box office. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 79% approval rating with the critical consensus: "Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are just charming, goofy, and silly enough to make this fluffy time-travel Adventure work".More Info
In 1984, Reeves was a correspondent for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) youth television program Going Great. That same year, he made his acting debut in an episode of the television series, called Hangin' In. In 1985, he played Mercutio in a stage production of Romeo and Juliet at the Leah Posluns Theatre in North York, Ontario. He made further appearances on stage, including Brad Fraser's cult hit Wolfboy in Toronto. He also appeared in a Coca-Cola commercial, and in 1985, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) coming-of-age, short film One Step Away.More Info
He starred in the action thriller Speed (1994) alongside Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper. He plays police officer Jack Traven, who must prevent a bus from exploding by keeping its speed above 50 mph. Speed was the directorial debut of Dutch director Jan de Bont. Several actors were considered for the lead role, but Reeves was chosen because Bont was impressed with his Point Break performance. To look the part, Reeves shaved all his hair off and spent two months in the gym to gain muscle mass. During production, Reeves' friend River Phoenix (and co-star in My Own Private Idaho) died, resulting in adjustments to the filming schedule to allow him to mourn. Speed was released on June 10 to a critically acclaimed response. Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune lauded Reeves, calling him "absolutely charismatic ... giving a performance juiced with joy as he jumps through elevator shafts ... and atop a subway train". David Ansen, writing for Newsweek, summarized Speed as, "Relentless without being overbearing, this is one likely blockbuster that doesn't feel too big for its britches. It's a friendly juggernaut". The film grossed $35 million from a $30 million budget and won two Academy Awards in 1995 – Best Sound Editing and Best Sound.More Info
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