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An amiable US comedy about two suburban dudes posing as gangsters

It’s been sold as a gangsta-flavoured bro-com, a spiritual successor to ‘Friday’ and ‘Pineapple Express’. But the roots of this upbeat if uneven debut from succesful US sketch comedians Jordan Key and Keegan-Michael Peele stretch a lot further back, to the small-screen ’70s when sitcom writers took pleasure in picking apart macho stereotypes and social snobbery. Imagine ‘The Likely Lads’ with weed jokes and you’re most of the way there.

Rell (Peele) and Clarence (Key) are suburban, middle-class guys, stewing in their respective traps. Rell is recently dumped and mourning, while Clarence’s loving but complicated marriage is making him question his manhood. When Rell adopts runaway kitten Keanu, his life snaps into focus – until said feline is catnapped, for reasons too complex to go into, by drug baron Cheddar (Method Man) and his tooled-up cronies. Can our not-exactly-street-savvy heroes win him back?

When it sticks to character comedy, Keanu is glorious: the unabashed affection between its writer-stars is infectious and the script is loaded with great gags, some of them disarmingly sweet (training consultant Clarence’s efforts to bond a group of perplexed drug dealers), some flat-out crude (a visit to a strip club called Hot Party Vixens, with the acronym in flashing red neon).

But as the plot thickens, things start to wobble. That all this mayhem is sparked by the hunt for an adorable kitty is charming, but it’s not enough to overcome a general sense of familiarity as the bullets fly and the car chases kick in. It doesn’t help that the women get sidelined: Tiffany Haddish’s tomboy bruiser Hi-C starts out tough as nails and ends up stuck in love-interest limbo. It’s ironic, but Keanu might be a better movie if it was more like TV: 90 plotless minutes of Key and Peele just goofing around on the mean streets might’ve been something really special.

By: Tom Huddleston


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday July 15 2016
Duration: 100 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Peter Atencio
Screenwriter: Alex Rubens, Jordan Peele
Cast: Jordan Peele
Keegan-Michael Key
Tiffany Haddish
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