By 2002, his professional music career had come to an end when Dogstar disbanded. The band had released two albums during their decade together; Our Little Visionary in 1996 and Happy Ending in 2000. Sometime afterwards, Reeves performed in the band Becky for a year, founded by Dogstar band-mate Rob Mailhouse, but quit in 2005, citing a lack of interest in a serious music career. After being absent from the screen in 2002, Reeves returned to The Matrix sequels in 2003 with The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, released in May and November, respectively. Principal photography for both films was completed back-to-back, primarily at Fox Studios in Australia. The Matrix Reloaded garnered mostly favourable reviews; John Powers of LA Weekly praised the "dazzling pyrotechnics" but was critical of certain machine-like action scenes. Of Reeves' acting, Powers thought it was somewhat "wooden" but felt he has the ability to "exude a charmed aura". Andrew Walker, writing for London Evening Standard, praised the cinematography ("visually it gives full value as a virtuoso workout for your senses") but he was less taken by the film's "dime-store philosophy". The film grossed $739 million worldwide.
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
In 2001, Reeves continued to explore and accept roles in a diverse range of genres. The first was a romantic comedy, Sweet November, a 1968 remake of the same name. This was his second collaboration with Charlize Theron; the film was met with a generally negative reception. Desson Thompson of The Washington Post criticized it for its "syrupy cliches, greeting-card wisdom and over-the-top tragicomedy", but commended Reeves for his likability factor in every performance he gives. Hardball (2001) marked Reeves' attempt in another sports comedy. Directed by Brian Robbins, it is based on the book Hardball: A Season in the Projects by Daniel Coyle. Reeves plays Conor O'Neill, a troubled young man who agrees to coach a Little League team from the Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago as a condition of obtaining a loan. Film critic Roger Ebert took note of the film's desire to tackle difficult subjects and baseball coaching, but felt it "drifts above the surface", and Reeves' performance was "glum and distant".More Info
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
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
After the success of The Matrix, Reeves avoided another blockbuster in favour of a lighthearted sports comedy, The Replacements (2000). He agreed to a pay cut to enable Gene Hackman co-star in the film. Against his wishes, Reeves starred in the thriller The Watcher (2000), playing a serial killer who stalks a retired FBI agent. He said that a friend forged his signature on a contract, which he could not prove; he appeared in the film to avoid legal action. Upon its release, the film was critically panned. That year, he had a supporting role in another thriller, Sam Raimi's The Gift, a story about a woman (played by Cate Blanchett) with extrasensory perception asked to help find a young woman who disappeared. The film grossed $44 million worldwide. Film critic Paul Clinton of CNN thought the film was fairly compelling, saying of Reeves' acting: "[Raimi] managed to get a performance out of Reeves that only occasionally sounds like he's reading his lines from the back of a cereal box."More Info
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