Keanu Reeves’s personality never fully matched the big-budget spectacles that made him into a long-reigning action star; as chaos erupted onscreen around him, he often seemed like he’d be more comfortable talking it out than going into bullet-time. This makes his recent move toward more modest genre fare — like John Wick, which is his first movie to get the sequel treatment since The Matrix, and Man of Tai Chi, which he directed — feel overdue.
In his latest, two beautiful women (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas) show up at the door of an architect named Evan (Reeves) on a rainy night while his family’s away for the weekend; the ladies claim to have been dropped off in the wrong neighborhood while on their way to a party. They’re bubbly and flirtatious, which is disarming to Keanu and should probably set off alarms for anyone cognizant of the fact that they’re watching an Eli Roth movie called Knock Knock.
Having completely removed gore from his arsenal (at least for now), the provocateur is unsurprisingly adept as a tension-builder — it’s in the gratuitous payoffs that certain of his prior films have suffered, not the buildup. Here, the co-writer/director’s sardonic sense of humor is allowed free rein over the close-quarters environs, which are beautiful in a way that promises ruin.
Still, the best villains are those whose motivations prove uncomfortably persuasive, and Knock Knock‘s drop-dead-gorgeous home invaders predicate their cruel game on too shaky a foundation to truly unsettle.
Directed by Eli Roth
Opens October 9, AMC Empire 25
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 6, 2015