Is Jordan Peele now three-for-three with his films?
As a writer-director, the comedian turned filmmaker earned an Oscar, critical acclaim, and commercial success with Get Out, and he’s now getting many of those same notices for Us, which opens in theaters Friday. But, these two thrillers/comedies/horror projects aren’t the first films from the mind of Peele.
Back in 2016, shortly after wrapping the Emmy-winning sketch series Key & Peele, Peele co-wrote and starred alongside Keegan-Michael Key in the buddy action-comedy Keanu. The film, which finds two regular guys getting caught up in a drug war during their search for the titular kitten, basically served as an extension of the series with Peele co-writing with Key & Peele writer Alex Rubens and Key & Peele director Peter Atencio behind the camera. And while Keanu grossed only $20 million at the box office and scored just decent reviews (EW’s Devan Coggan gave it a B-), now seems like an appropriate time to revisit it considering Peele’s quick ascension to becoming one of Hollywood’s elite filmmakers.
Read on below for the highlights from the forgotten film.
Key & Peele’s chemistry
Unsurprisingly, considering their epic five-season run on Key & Peele and their history together on Mad TV, Peele and Key are perfectly matched as cousins/best friends Rell and Clarence. One of their best back-and-forths is when they go to a strip club and Rell (Peele) says they need to better fit in, declaring of Clarence (Key), “You sound like Richard Pryor doing an impression of a white guy.” The family man quickly fires back, “You sound like John Ritter all the time.” Clarence then gets upset when Rell goes “straight to the N-word,” only to do so himself when approached by gang members.
Putting Tiffany Haddish on the movie map
One of the members of the Blips that approaches Clarence and Rell is Hi-C, played by Tiffany Haddish. At the time, Keanu marked her biggest role to date, before the next year’s Girls Trip would serve as her major breakout. In retrospective, it’s easy to look back and say that the signs were there, but they really were, as she jumped off the screen both as the intimidating gangster and, as later revealed, the undercover cop love interest of Rell. Now, we just need Peele to cast Haddish in his next film. (She definitely wouldn’t have fit in Get Out, because there’s no way Tiffany Haddish would have ever gone in that house.)
Anna Faris goes wild
While Haddish was great, the funniest performance by an actress goes to Anna Faris for her drug-fueled cameo. In possibly the film’s most memorable scene, Rell and Hi-C go to a fancy mansion to make a drug deal, only to discover that the client is the Scary Movie star. Faris has a ball playing a violent, psychotic version of herself in one of her darkest roles ever.
Much ado about Keanu…Reeves
Faris isn’t the only big name to appear. When Keanu was originally announced, many speculated that it would be a spoof of the recently released John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves as a hitman seeking revenge for the murder of his dog. That didn’t prove to be the case, but Reeves did end up being a part of the film, voicing Keanu the cat in a hallucination sequence. As always, all hail Keanu Reeves.
The loaded supporting cast
We’ve mentioned Peele, Key, Faris, Haddish, and Reeves, but the Keanu cast is filled with even more people that we’re always happy to see, such as Will Forte (Saturday Night Live), Nia Long (Friday), Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton), Rob Huebel (The League), and Method Man (long live, Method & Red). And extra points for naming Method Man’s character Cheddar considering he previously played Cheese on The Wire. Forte in particular earns plenty of laughs as Rell’s drug dealing neighbor Hulka, who appears to be a big fan of James Franco’s turn in Spring Breakers.
Bringing the Heat with Reservoir Cats
Speaking of the cat, the arrival of Keanu (“I think it means Cool Breeze in Hawaiian”) inspires Rell to make a calendar that features his new adorable kitten being placed in classic movies like Reservoir Dogs, Fargo, Heat, and Point Break (Keanu standing in for Keanu!). Unfortunately, the calendar is for Rell’s “personal use only,” so we can’t buy it, but we do get a full glimpse at his masterpiece in the end credits.
Liam Neesons reference
It was a pleasant surprise to see Key and Peele give a nod to their beloved “Liam Neesons” when the duo share their enthusiasm for the Neeson movie they just saw. Plus, it’s an excuse to watch all of the Valet sketches from Key & Peele.
Get in…some movies and shows.
You know what, it was just nice to see Peele in front of the camera. After Key & Peele, Keanu, and Fargo, Peele was well on his way to having a successful acting career, but last year he declared that part of his career over, saying, “Acting is just nowhere near as fun for me as directing.” Well, as much as we love his directing, it would be a shame if we didn’t get to see anymore of Peele. For now, we’ll have to settle for him as the host of his Twilight Zone series, the voice of the ghost of Duke Ellington on Big Mouth, and back alongside Key in Toy Story 4.
Us is out in theaters now. Keanu is available to rent or buy on platforms like iTunes, Amazon, and YouTube.