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Film / Keanu

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Who's a good kitten?

Keanu is a 2016 film starring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, about two men (Rell, played by Peele, and Clarence, played by Key) looking to reclaim their incredibly cute cat from some gangsters who stole him. To do so, they pose as drug dealers, trying to earn the favor of the gang's leader Cheddar (Method Man). Along the way, they run afoul of a drug cartel and two silent psychopaths, all while trying to keep their activities from interfering with their normal lives. Tiffany Haddish also stars.

The film was originally screened at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, where it received generally positive reviews, and opened to general audiences on April 29, 2016.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Hi-C is Cheddar's second in command in his gang and an undercover cop.
  • Adam Westing: Anna Faris as a drug-crazy, Cloudcuckoolander version of herself, before it is revealed that she and her friends were helping the cops in their operation.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: At the beginning of the film, there's some clear tension in Clarence's marriage as his wife goes off with his daughter and another (married) man for a weekend retreat. As it turns out, what Clarence's wife wanted was some excitement in their relationship, and the more he attempts to cover up his activities, the more "excited" she gets. By the end of the film, when Rell and Clarence are being cornered by the police at Clarence's house, his wife interrupts the arrest in progress to go upstairs to the bedroom and have sex with him.
  • Ambiguously Human: While Smoke and Oil Dresden look human enough, they're also extremely ugly, never say a word, and can pull off finely-tuned parkour maneuvers. And after being shot multiple times each, they awaken and walk away from a comatose state that (depending on the film's timeline) may have lasted anywhere from hours to weeks, and during which they had no access to food, water, or medicine.
  • Amusement Park of Doom: The confrontation with the Allentown Brothers occurs in a warehouse containing old Rock-afire Explosion animatronics from Showbiz Pizza Place (now Chuck E. Cheese's).
  • Badass Adorable: Keanu becomes one at the end when he's able to karate chop Luis Guzman, despite being much, much smaller than him.
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: Downplayed in the finale - while Rell flinches in pain and rubs his ear multiple times when a gun goes off right next to his ear during the chase scene in the end, he doesn't seem to suffer anything beyond a momentary pain a few seconds after the gun goes off and temporary deafness when Bacon tries yelling orders.
  • Becoming the Mask: Initially, Rell and Clarence are just posing as hardcore gangsters to get their cat. Over time, though, they learn to be as tough as they act. Mostly. In the end, when they wind up in prison, they're actually pretty well-respected because they managed to kill the Allentown boys, who had been terrorizing the city for some time.
    • Or did they.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The movie ending is presented as mostly sweet, Rell and Clarence's actions were illegal (Rell himself treats his arrest as a "fair enough"), and so they had to spend six months in prison. Clarence's relationship with his wife is much improved, though, and Rell is now going out with Hi-C, who's watching Keanu for him. What's not portrayed in the film however, is that Rell and Clarence's careers are almost certainly ruined due to the stigma of being criminals and having served prison time.
  • Big "NO!": Rell after his cousin shows him Keanu's disheveled pet collar. Bonus points for drama as he runs out into a deluge. In a deleted scene, he screams and curses at God for a good minute and a half.
  • Black and Nerdy: Rell are Clarence are both timid, awkward and uncool. Rell seems to be an artist and a film geek, while Clarence is a straight-laced corporate type with preppy fashion sense and a love for George Michael. They compete about whose bullies were tougher.
  • Bloodstained Glass Windows: The Allentown Brothers have a big shootout in a church that has been converted into a drug lab, which is played up for all its slow-mo cool.
  • Bond One-Liner: "I don't drive... He does." Points to Clarence just moments before he hits Bacon with a stolen car.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Trunk mentions that he has a knock-out left hook. In the climax he can be seen knocking someone out with a left hook.
    • While impersonating the Allentown Brothers at Anna Faris' truth or dare game, Rell claims to have cut the dicks off of two guys. Later it turns out that Oil Dresden really does keep a collection of severed penises. Subverted: they're actually fingers.
    • Clarence does a flip off a wall to prove he and Rell are the Allentown Brothers. When prompted to also demonstrate, Rell says that he and Clarence alternate days, and will be flipping tomorrow. And then does so in the climax.
  • Butt-Monkey: Hulka, to a humorous extent. First he gets interrogated by a couple of homebodies, whom he correctly pegged as nerds, only to have his vintage records damaged when he dumped on a desperate man's loss. He then gets hogtied and stuffed in a trunk of the Allentown Brothers' car when they catch him looting Rell's home and stealing his 6' flatscreen as they were looking for clues about Keanu. Then he is found by Cheddar and his gang who ordered the fake Allentowns Rell and Clarence to off him to prove their credibility. When they refused, he had his crew put him in the back of their car instead; With A BIG HUNGRY PYTHON in the backseat leaving him there the entire night screaming. Finally at the end the police who arrive on scene open the trunk to find Hulka half eaten by said extra passenger, begging the cops to kill it due to the pain he's in. All in all, the poor drug dealer cannot catch a break yet given his Jerkass tendencies he kinda deserves it.
  • The Cameo:
    • Anna Faris shows up as the client that Rell has to sell drugs to in order to get Cheddar's respect. She's apparently killed by Hi-C, although it all turns out to have been a part of Hi-C's sting operation.
    • Keanu Reeves himself also shows up, voicing the titular cat named after him, during Clarence's Mushroom Samba.
  • Car Fu: During the climax, Clarence hits drug lord Bacon with a car. He still gets up.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Clarence's actual job is as a corporate team-builder, and he uses some of his techniques to teach members of the Blips how to handle themselves in their positions. In the climactic shootout, they use what he taught to win in a showdown where they were both outnumbered and heavily outgunned. They all survive, in fact.
    • Early on, Rell is shown teaching Keanu to scratch at a photograph of his ex-girlfriend, who seriously hurt him. While tied to a chair after he and Clarence are kidnapped by the Allentown Boys, Rell gets Keanu to slash and bite at the ropes on his hands to fray them enough to break free, by whispering the key phrase he used to train Keanu to destroy the photograph. This same phrase later causes Keanu to leap at the face of a gang leader that has Rell at gunpoint.
  • Contrived Coincidence: For as big as Los Angeles County is, the final chase and fight ends up bringing the film’s climax literally to Clarence’s front lawn, right as Hannah and Spencer return from their trip.
  • Creepy Souvenir: Oil Dresden of the Allentown Brothers collects severed fingers (momentarily mistaken for penises). It's as disgusting as it sounds. Also doubles as a brick joke due to Rell's comments at Anna Faris' party.
  • Criminal Doppelgänger: While the Allentown boys don't appear to resemble Rell and Clarence at all at first glance, they are, in fact, played by (a heavily made-up) Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, and Rell and Clarence are mistaken for them, making them this trope in effect.
  • Cuteness Overload: Rell's funk over his girlfriend breaking up with him is cured instantly the moment he finds Keanu. Pretty much everyone else has the same reaction to the kitten as well. It actually creates most of the movie's conflict, as four different parties (aside from the original owner) want Keanu for themselves.
  • Cute Kitten: Let's all face facts - that is one sweet and adorable kitten.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Invoked on a scratching post.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Rell and Clarence pretend to be drug dealers so they can get Keanu back. Initially, they don't fit in very well, but they learn to adapt.
  • Erudite Stoner: Hulka is surprisingly eloquent at times, but that doesn't mean he's smart enough to know not to compete with the Blips on their own turf.
  • Fantastic Drug: Holy Shit is described as a combination of PCP, MDMA, and DMT.
  • Foreshadowing: Hi-C is very cold in pointing out that she's never seen Clarence and Rell before, and doubts they're actually in the drug trade. Given that she's probably had to learn all the players, big and small, of the local operation as part of her police cover, she knows full well that the two are faking it.
    • She's also quite insistent on getting Rell to (falsely) admit to helping her kill Anna Faris and her friends after the drug deal. This probably helps when she testifies on his behalf to get a reduced sentence.
  • Genre Savvy: Rell and Clarence are well-aware of the tropes associated with hardcore gangsters and action movies, and a lot of the movie's comedy comes from either a) their difficulty in conforming to those stereotypes (Clarence being a George Michael-loving father of three and Rell being a somewhat nerdy homebody), b) their horror at the heightened situations those tropes get them into (with both of them being the polar opposite of The Stoic, freaking out at witnessing or having to inflict violence), or c) their surprise at actually being able to go along with it, and well.
  • Guilty Pleasures/Real Men Wear Pink: Clarence is a huge fan of George Michael, which Rell uses as proof of how lame he is. When Clarence puts on his music while waiting for Rell and Hi-C to do the drug deal, George Michael comes on, and he manages to convince the gangsters with him that George Michael is actually cool (and black), to the point where Stitches actually gets a George Michael tattoo later.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!:
    • Okay, so no one wants to hurt the kitten (thankfully), but Cheddar does pull a relatively minor version of this when he asks Rell and Clarence to do a drug deal to prove they're who they say they are. Of course, they go along with it.
    • And later on, when they try to pin their attempt to walk off with Keanu on Hulka, Cheddar asks them to kill Hulka. That time, though, they refuse.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Keanu gets into some pretty difficult situations, but he never even gets a scratch on him. Somewhat justified in that all of the humans love him and are protective of him, but he manages to avoid all stray fire and accidents on top of all that despite the dangers around him.
  • Ironic Nickname: Discussed with regards to Cheddar. As Rell points out, the less threatening a gangster's nickname, the more dangerous they probably are. And, in Cheddar's case, he's not wrong.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Hulka, Rell's next-door neighbor/weed dealer. He makes a show of seeming sympathetic, but he's really just trying to move drugs and doesn't care about Rell's problems at all. He just wants to avoid the Blips coming down on his head. And once Rell goes on his way to try and get Keanu back, he tries to steal Rell's television, hoping he won't notice after the Blips already trashed his place.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: In the finale, when Hi-C performs an Undercover Cop Reveal, even though the rest of the Blips have the advantage of manpower and firepower, they surrender, figuring that they're as good as done. Cheddar doesn't and gets gunned down, and given how fast the cops arrived, the ones who surrender were correct in their assumption.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: What happens when Hulka tries to steal Rell's television? The Allentown Brothers come by, looking for Keanu, and they tie him up and lock him in their trunk, which leads to him being locked in another trunk, this time with a giant anaconda.
  • Living MacGuffin: Keanu is effectively one, although there's no particular reason except he's just that adorable.
  • Made of Iron:
    • When Clarence gets shocked by the Allentown Brothers while holding a gun, he unloads six shots into them. They fall, but they get back up, upon which Rell also unloads six shots into them. And they still get up in The Stinger.
    • There's also the drug lord, Bacon. During the climax, he gets his face scratched up by Keanu, thrown through the windshield of a crashing car, gets hit by another car, and finally gunned down by the Blips.
  • Mistaken for Special Guest: When Rell and Clarence pose as drug dealers to try and get Keanu back, Cheddar mistakes them for the Allentown boys. They roll with it, but there are a lot of hoops they have to jump through to maintain their cover.
  • Morality Pet: Inverted. Several parties in this film do horrible things to each other, specifically because they want Keanu back.
  • Mushroom Samba: Clarence takes a hit from a pipe thinking it's just plain weed. Instead it turns out to be the "holy shit" from the earlier drug deal, and this ensues.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Thankfully.
  • Noodle Incident: We never learn exactly how Spencer was "inappropriate" with Clarence's wife.
  • Oh, Crap!: "Holy Shit" in the film gets its name from the reaction of anyone who takes a hit of it. Sure enough, when Clarence accidentally takes a hit of it (thinking that there was weed in the pipe), both he and Rell say "Holy shit!" with alarmed faces.
  • Older Than He Looks: Keanu is described as having a rare disease which will make him look like a kitten forever.
  • Pet the Dog: Everyone thinks that Keanu is just the most adorable kitten ever. Cheddar is a hardcore gangster who has a large boa constrictor for a pet... but he still loves the kitten. The Allentown Brothers are a pair of silent psychopaths, and even they make sure to nuzzle with the kitten when given the chance.
  • Psycho Knife Nut: While the Allentown Boys clearly have no issue using guns, particularly in a situation where their opponents have them on-hand, it's clear that their preferred weapon is anything bladed - when their opponent doesn't have a weapon, they're quick to go for the knives.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: There's a reason everyone seems to be fighting over this cat. In fact, it's revealed in the finale that Keanu has a genetic condition that ensures he'll be a cute kitten his whole life.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Not surprisingly, all over the place for Keanu Reeves, beginning with the kitten's name, going to Rell's hobby of remaking film scenes with the kitten (including Point Break (1991)), the kitten quoting several Reeves roles during a drug trip voiced by Keanu Reeves himself.
    • The Allentown Brothers - psuedo-religious semi-vigilante dual-wielding hitmen in coats - reference The Boondock Saints. They even use the same box silencers the brothers used in the sequel.
      • Their demeanour is a send-off of Michael Myers, right down to the trademark way of rising from the ground after being knocked down. They look like carbon copies of Not Important, as well.
    • Double Shout-Out to their own sketch show, when the main characters go see a "Liam Neesons" movie called Substitute Teacher.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The climactic showdown is scored with the Running Gag that is mentions of George Michael.
  • The Stinger: A quick one, where the Allentown Brothers are revealed to still be alive.
  • The Stoner: Hulka, Rell's weed dealer and next-door neighbor. It was actually his house that the Blips wanted to break into, but they got the wrong address, which is how they found Keanu and started the whole plot.
  • Stoners Are Funny: Hulka pretty much alternates between this and being a Damsel in Distress throughout the movie.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Whatever their ultimate intentions, Rell and Clarence did commit a bunch of crimes getting Keanu back, and unlike Hi-C, they weren't officially working undercover to legitimize their actions, so they have to go to prison. On the plus side, though, they wound up only having to do six months (which, considering they killed at least three people, is not too shabby. Although most of those can be credited as self defence), and avoided some of the worst possible consequences thanks to the respect they got for killing the Dresden brothers, and their friendship with what remains of the Blips.
  • Torture Technician: When The Allentown Brothers finally catch up to Clarence and Rell, they unveil a spread of surgical equipment that they clearly intend to use to slowly cut up the cousins with.
  • Touché: Hulka thought he was getting a leg up from being stuck in the Allentown Brothers trunk when Cheddar ordered him locked in his trunk. He quickly changed his tune upon seeing the big hungry python in the back seat.
    Hulka: Aw Man! Okay, Okay. Well anythings better than being shot, ya heard?
    (after looking at the massive snake)
    Hulka: Ooooh! I stand corrected!!
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: Hi-C turns out to be a cop who was trying to nail Cheddar and his gang, the Blips.
  • Unfortunate Names: The Blips make their base above a strip club called Hot Party Vixens. They abbreviate the name on their marquee, "HPV" (i.e., human papilloma virus), and Clarence points out how unfortunate the name is.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Invoked. To put it politely, the kitten is a jinx. First being the pet of a drug cartel owner, changing hands to psychotic super criminals after they kill the original owner, only to find its way to Rell, then winding up in yet another criminal outfit, but also being sought after by the original owner's cousin. Everybody is willing to go to extremes to possess Keanu, and most of them are violent criminals to begin with, leading to a very chaotic custody dispute.
  • The Voiceless: The two silent killers that perpetrated the slaughter in the beginning of the film, known in the film as "the Allentown boys," but called Oil and Smoke Dresden in the script and credits (played by Key and Peele in heavy makeup), who show up looking for Keanu (who they took a liking to).
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": The kitten, of course, who is named after Keanu Reeves.
  • The Whitest Black Guy: Clarence. He’s got a white collar job, a nice house in the suburbs, and his favorite musician is George Michael. Rell claims his normal speaking voice sounds like Richard Pryor doing an impression of a white guy.
  • Yandere: Pretty much everyone when it comes to Keanu, but this especially applies for Cheddar, Bacon and the Allentown boys.