michael keaton movies

Michael Keaton – The most underrated actor in superhero movies?

Today we are talking about one of my favorite actors from my youth, as well as the first one I saw wearing the Batman armor in the movies back in the 1990s, namely the one and only Michael Keaton.

Unfortunately, he is an extraordinary performer who did not always have roles to match his prowess, especially from the beginning of the second millennium onward, since it seems that many prominent American productions have forgotten his name.

It may be because, unlike many of his colleagues, Keaton has kept a reputation for humility and discretion over the years, avoiding the celebrity spotlight as much as possible.

Indeed, except for a few appearances for environmental organizations such as Riverkeeper, we saw this actor very little on the big international stages, although he nonstop continued to work year after year.

However, among all these movies that have remained in the shadows, how many of them are really good and allowed Michael Keaton to actually deliver on his value?

Let’s look at some of them together; I bet there are a few titles you’ve never heard of.

Speechless (1994)

Speechless 1994 michael keaton movies
Amazon movie

Among the most forgotten is this delightful 90s romantic movie, where, along with Michael Keaton, is the stunning Geena Davis, also fresh off recent notoriety for Thelma & Louise.

The story begins in a hotel on the edge of New Mexico, where in the middle of the night, the two lonely hearts, Kevin and Julia, wander without being able to sleep.

Both are in the highlight of their careers, the political war to campaign for a senatorial seat, so they are happy to detach from the constant stress and let loose in each other’s arms.

Unfortunately, they discover to be enemies on the battlefield the following day since their jobs are both to write public speeches for the Republican and Democratic candidates, respectively.

Thus begins a strange ping-pong of seduction and rivalry while everyone else is in the dark about this wacky affair, including her ex-boyfriend, a photographer/war hero who wants to get back into the graces of his beautiful journalist.

Directing, we have veteran Ron Underwood, author of the beloved cult horror Tremors and other comedies such as the celebrated City Slickers.

Underwood recreates the famous comic couple from Beetlejuice, bringing back the irresistible Geena Davis and Michael Keaton.

Both neurotic and never shutting up for a minute, the man with a nostalgia for writing TV sitcoms and the woman with a naive (and blessed) belief that she can do good with politics.

Next to the old Batman, we have the even older Superman of the 1970s, the immortal Christopher Reeve, who plays the role of the slightly jerky macho hunk.

Lots of laughs, bickering, and sneaking around for these newly minted Romeo and Juliet in the heart of the electoral Verona/New Mexico scene. What more do you need to click PLAY?

Multiplicity (1996)

Multiplicity 1996 michael keaton movies
Amazon Prime Video

This likable movie may not be as perfect in pacing as the previous one, yet it is a high point as evidence of Michael Keaton‘s versatile acting talent.

The story revolves around the life of Doug Kinney, a California contractor on the verge of a nervous breakdown because he is always without ever having time for family and himself.

Constantly looking for a way to be more with wife Laura and children, after a tremendous rant at a construction site, he meets an ambitious medical researcher who offers him an unlikely but brilliant solution.

Indeed, he might finally have some peace if he agrees to experiment with his new cloning process, and though initially skeptical, Doug is tempted by chance to handle and enjoy some of life.

So he chooses to go ahead and slowly creates different versions of himself, such as Doug #2, a work-oriented clone who takes the reins of his professional duties, or Doug #3, who is instead tasked with handling his domestic tasks.

However, each clone possesses only some of Doug’s traits, amplified to the extreme, which will obviously lead to an infinity of unpredictable messes.

Harold Ramis has always proven to be a director capable of managing the rhythms between laughs and feelings without overdoing the doses but with a skillful measure that certainly, never innovates the genre; but works without ever failing in entertainment.

Michael Keaton raises his talents fourfold by going from serious to silly or tender and effeminate in the span of a minute, along with his lovely wife, Andie MacDowell, who, as always, is perfect as a tender pouty.

In short, for those who love simple, effective comedies and adore this actor, this movie is as good as you’ll ever get.

Desperate Measures (1998)

Desperate Measures 1998 movie
Amazon Prime Video

After two comedies where Michael Keaton is adorable and funny, we move on to a different character and situation.

Indeed, this time the actor plays Peter McCabe, a multiple convicted felon so dangerous that even in prison, they have to keep him in solitary confinement after brutally killing several fellow inmates.

Of course, he will not be the story’s hero, but Frank Conner is a San Francisco cop and devoted father who desperately fights to save the life of his son Matt, who has leukemia.

After illegally hacking the national database to find a compatible donor for a bone marrow transplant, Frank discovers that the only positive match is McCabe himself.

Despite the risks, the cop convinces his superiors to transport the criminal to the hospital for surgery.

However, McCabe is far more cunning than he had imagined, and once he breaks free on the operating table, he wreaks havoc on doctors and cops and enacts an audacious escape plan, turning the hospital into a battlefield.

This leads Frank to try to capture Peter by fighting his own colleagues, attempting to keep this madman alive to save his son.

If cinema requires a certain detachment from reality, in this Barbet Schroeder movie, we must accept exaggerated situations that defy every law of logic and probability.

But that doesn’t matter to us because the villain, played by Keaton, is so cool and ingenious in his cruelty that he almost seems like the evil twin of the famous MacGyver.

Andy García plays the part of the good guy who makes a deal with the devil with equal enthusiasm, a simple idea that works even in the most implausible action scenes.

In short, a pretty boorish but undeniably entertaining movie, one of those 90s delights that die-hard fans miss so much.

Birdman (2014)

Birdman 2014 michael keaton movies
Amazon Prime Video

We arrive at what was undoubtedly the most recent and acclaimed movie starring Michael Keaton, ironically in the autobiographical role of a former blockbuster superhero who had fallen into cinematic oblivion.

The lead character is Riggan Thomson, an outcast actor once famous for playing the famous Birdman, a masked action costume avenger.

Hoping to regain his lost glory, Riggan attempts to stage a play on Broadway, retelling a Raymond Carver short story.

At that point, the theater becomes the main stage for the plot, with Riggan struggling with rehearsals, the problematic cast, including rebellious actor Mike Shiner, who is exceptional but highly annoying, as well as with his own insecurities and fears that he is no longer up to acting.

Through it all, Riggan is haunted by a voice in his head, Birdman’s alter ego, who continually challenges his self-esteem and his personal and professional choices, especially in his complex relationship with his daughter Sam, his production assistant.

As the premiere approaches, Riggan struggles with reality and illusion as mounting pressures push him to the increasingly blurred boundaries between his identity and his passion for art.

Alejandro González Iñárritu pushes his immense cinematic technique to the limit by making a (fake) two-hour-long sequence plan, flying in and out of Broadway theaters and clubs on the streets and rooftops of New York City.

What can be said about Keaton’s acting except to repeat and join the line of compliments he has already received everywhere and from everyone?

Birdman is simply one of the masterpieces that best combines theater and cinema ever, as well as the amazing redemption for an actor who finally returned to the fame he deserves.

The Protégé (2021)

The Protégé 2021 movie
Amazon Prime Video

Finally, we end with a crackling all-female action starring the well-known (more on television than in the movies) sexy star Maggie Q.

The actress is a poor little girl orphaned in Vietnam, welcomed into the knowing, murder-trained arms of old Samuel L. Jackson, who takes her in as his adopted goddaughter, molding her into the world’s deadliest hitman.

How does Michael Keaton fit into all this?

Very simple, because some old customers dissatisfied with the service seek revenge on the girl, who in turn seeks revenge against the man who tries to kill her.

Keaton is responsible for this boss’s security, starting an intriguing and bizarre sexual love/hate/homicide relationship with the beautiful protagonist.

However, sooner or later, both must choose who to point their guns at, leaving their feelings aside for a good old-fashioned Western duel where the quicker and more cold-blooded wins.

The Protégé follows in the trail opened by John Wick with a type of action, finally more stylish and cleverly constructed, in long spectacular sequences of fights and shootouts.

Obviously, Martin Campbell does not reach the level of Keanu Reeves’ saga in the slightest, mind you, yet the result is still highly gratifying, main thanks to the fantastic trio of leads.

Indeed it all begins with the usual killer/child pair already seen in The Professional, with the little girl later becoming the gorgeous Maggie Q while her mentor is the even older Sam Jackson.

Slipping into this dysfunctional family is our present-day main guy, an unpredictable Michael Keaton, who is undoubtedly the movie’s best character, still cool and ready for action as if he were a young rascal.

This is a further demonstration of how this actor can still kick ass at the ripe old age of 70; I’m ready to relish every moment when he’s back in the Batman suit in the upcoming The Flash, another superhero blockbuster now approaching worldwide release. Whether or not this new movie is any good will remain to be seen, but I’m sure dear old Keaton will still be able to keep the big bat’s pointy ears straighter than ever.

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