Keanu Reeves deserves to be in the sports movie Hall of Fame
Forget John Wick, it's time to celebrate Shane Falco and Reeves' other memorable players and coaches.
There's a lot of Hall of Fames that Keanu Reeves belongs to: action hero Hall of Fame; coolest guy alive Hall of Fame; saving people on a vehicle Hall of Fame. But what many people don't realize is that he also deserves entry into the sports movie Hall of Fame.
When most think of Keanu characters, they think Ted, they think Neo, and they think John Wick. And those icons earned the respect that's been put on their name. Meanwhile, Shane Falco and Conor O'Neill continue to be overlooked — but that stops now.
Before we get into Reeves' résumé, we should briefly discuss some qualifications for the sports movie Hall of Fame and who some of the distinguished members are. First, you should have starred in three legit sports movies and you need to have been a player in at least one of them (being a coach in the others is acceptable). And those three are expected to be real sports movies, not just like an action movie where you happen to shoot hoops once (but bonus points for those types of roles after the three, which is something Keanu will benefit from).
Now it's time to meet some of the legends who've already been inducted into this prestigious fake club. The list can be separated into those who have multiple memorable films or characters and those who owe their place more to the high number of sports movies they've put out. Falling into the former category are A-listers like Denzel Washington (He Got Game, Remember the Titans, The Hurricane), Wesley Snipes (Major League, White Men Can't Jump, Wildcats), Kevin Costner (Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, Tin Cup, Draft Day), and Adam Sandler (Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, The Longest Yard). Not any less deserving are volume shooters like Will Ferrell (Talladega Nights, Kicking & Screaming, Semi-Pro, Blades of Glory) and Woody Harrelson (White Men Can't Jump, Kingpin, Semi-Pro, Play It to the Bone). Clearly the group is very male-heavy, but Hilary Swank also managed to earn her spot behind The Next Karate Kid, Million Dollar Baby, and Logan Lucky. Yes, Logan Lucky might be a cheat, but the made-up rule for this made up-honor is if you win an Oscar for a sports movie then you're in.
Okay, with that all understood, here's Keanu's case. Checking back on our requirements, he meets both of them, considering he's starred as a hockey player in Youngblood, a baseball coach in Hardball, and a football player in The Replacements. Just three sports movies doesn't get him in, but the classic criteria pushes him over. Yes, you heard that right, Hardball and The Replacements are classics, at least to a certain generation.
No offense to Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze, but we can skip over Keanu's feature film debut, Youngblood, in which, as a Canadian and former hockey player, he was perfectly cast as team's goalie named Heaver. So let's jump ahead to The Replacements, the inspiration for this discussion.
Turning 20 on Tuesday, the delightfully goofy football comedy served as Keanu's followup to The Matrix and a drastic departure from Neo. With Shane Falco, Keanu fulfilled the destiny originally set up in Point Break with the incredibly-named Johnny Utah, the Ohio State quartback-turned-FBI agent. Honestly, there's a not far-fetched world where Shane Falco is the identity that Johnny Utah adopted after taking down Bodi (Swayze) in his undercover mission. Surrounded by a fun ensemble cast (Jon Favreau, Rhys Ifans, Orlando Jones, and sports movie coach MVP Gene Hackman), Reeves is the perfect leader for this ragtag bunch of replacement players and somehow pulls off convincingly being simultaneously the ultimate underdog and second coming of Steve Young. So much so that he might be the starting quarterback of the football movie team — and only part of that is because of how beautiful and majestic he looks running out onto the field.
Just 13 months after The Replacements, Keanu solidified his Hall of Fame case with the release of Hardball. Coincidentally, both films boast a ludicrous 41 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. But if you were polling people who were kids or teens when Hardball came out, then the score for the baseball drama would be a home run. There are certain films that different generations latch onto and Hardball is one of them for millennials. For those of you who haven't seen it, think Keanu's version of The Way Back but without the offscreen personal issues.
There is so much to love: the introduction of Keanu's gambling addict Conor O'Neill being walking into a church on a rainy night, sitting down and praying, only to confess to a priest that he's not here for religion and rather "for the Bulls to cover"'; a great group of child actors (including a pre-Wire Michael B. Jordan, who would be in the Hall of Fame if TV counted); the "Hardball" theme song featuring three different rappers named Lil'; Queen Diane Lane; and the best sports movie kid character of all-time in G-Baby (DeWayne Warren). The team's unofficial mascot makes you smile anytime he's onscreen, until he makes you cry every time when he's killed. And Keanu shines in his speech at G-Baby's funeral, which is smartly intercut with the reveal of G-Baby's game-winning hit.
Also, as discussed in our breakdown of Ben Affleck's turn in The Way Back, the role of a coach in a sports drama is catnip for movie stars (see Denzel in Remember the Titans or Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday) and they all crank it up for their big big game speeches. And yet, none of them have ever inspired their players by singing Notorious B.I.G.'s "Big Poppa."
Finally, the cherries on top of Keanu's Hall of Fame sundae are the aforementioned Point Break, in which he shows off his football and surfing skills, and Toy Story 4's motorcycle-riding Canadian daredevil Duke Caboom.
With this committee of one officially voting him in, let's go to Keanu for his induction speech: