I’ve heard two stories of how Keanu Reeves ended up in this movie.
The first is that a friend forged his signature on the contract to be in this film and he did it rather than get involved in a lengthy legal battle.
The second is that Reeves was playing hockey with director Joe Charbanic and verbally agreed to play a small role in the film in order for Charbanic to get the movie funded. The problem was that his role ended up being one of the leads.
Regardless of the truth, Reeves was paid union scale for the movie while his co-stars like James Spader were paid at least a million.
The actor reached an agreement with Universal Pictures in which he would not disclose what had happened until a year after the film’s US release. In return, Universal agreed to downplay Reeves’s involvement in marketing (he did no press) and asked the film’s producers to give Reeves more profit participation. Since the movie was in first place for two weeks, he ended up making $2 million dollars.
A year later, he told the Calgary Sun “I never found the script interesting, but a friend of mine forged my signature on the agreement. I couldn’t prove he did and I didn’t want to get sued, so I had no other choice but to do the film.”
So when critics — like the aforementioned Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw, who said, “Short of getting Angela Lansbury or Rodney Dangerfield or Lassie for the part, the miscasting could not be more complete. Keanu is profoundly wrong as a serial killer.” — hated this movie and Keanu was nominated at the Razzie awards for Worst Supporting Actor, he still honored the agreement.
FBI Special Agent Joel Campbell (Spader) was too late to save a woman from a serial killer, so he leaves for Chicago, where he deals with migraines and has just one friend, his therapist Dr. Polly Beilman (Marisa Tomei). But when a girl dies in his building and the photos get mailed to him, obviously the killer has followed him. Despite FBI Special Agent Mike Ibby (Ernie Hudson) and Detective Hollis Mackie (Chris Ellis) asking him to come back, he wants to avoid the case.
Then, David Allen Griffin (Reeves) sends him a photo of another girl and tells him that if he doesn’t save her in nine hours, she’ll die. He keeps repeating this game with the detective, telling him that he considers him a good friend. And when he takes Beilman, he really gets to Campbell.
At least it has “Roads” by Portishead on the soundtrack.