In an era filled to the brim with smart, sophisticated Science Fiction (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, Under the Skin), it’s only fitting the month of January would bring us the bastard cousin of such acclaimed films with Replicas.
When Keanu Reeves’ synthetic biologist, Will Foster, is able to bring the subconscious of a deceased soldier into the body of a fully functioning AI, but destroys itself after a minute of life, somehow this scientific discovery is not good enough for his boss (John Ortiz, knowingly over-the-top). Foster, on his way to a family vacation, the same day as his scientific discovery, is struck with tragedy as his family perishes in a car accident. With his scientific tools at hand, as well as help from his best friend, Ed (Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch), Will attempts to replicate 3 of 4 deceased members of his family, don’t ask why not all of them.
From the get-go, you can tell Replicas is not going to be a thinking person’s Sci-Fi thriller.
Opening with a scene in a science lab where all the scientists look like GAP models makes a questionable impression.
Despite dabbling with some very dark themes, ultimately, Replicas isn’t interested in exploring those themes past the next scene. Feeling like the plot was made up as the writing went along, Replicas is consistent in its uneven-ness. One scene has Keanu struggling with the death of his daughter, whom he was unable to replicate. The next, he’s comically stealing government parts from under his boss that will help bring back his family.
Keanu Reeves is his usual charismatic self and Thomas Middleditch adds a few lighthearted chuckles as the comic relief, but the remainder of the cast doesn’t come out as unscathed.
Every member of the core family is as empty as the script they’re given. I can’t be too harsh on the child actors, simply because they don’t have much work given to them even by this films standards.
Alice Eve, an often under-utilized but talented actress, is wooden and lifeless in another thankless role. Her character is given zero characteristics apart from a throwaway line about her being a doctor. John Ortiz, given the “government bad guy” role is embarrassingly cliche and one-note, but despite the hammy performance, Ortiz seems to be the only person who showed up to work knowing what kind of film he’s in.
Helmed by TV native, Jeffrey Nachmanoff, the film is consistently misdirected with no sense of style or confidence. The visual effects have to be some of the worst in a mainstream release all decade. Not even the baffling character decisions are interesting in an ironic fashion.
Characters consistently make the most egregiously stupid decisions, that by the time the third act comes around, you’re left sitting in the theater wondering not what is happening, but why.
When Keanu screams “I HAVE TO WATCH THE PODS” for the tenth time, you can’t help question whether an initial draft of the script was done as a comedy. The final shot is easily one of the best laughs I’ve had in a theater in quite some time.
Chalk it up to bad writing, poor direction, or possibly too many cooks in the kitchen (the credited 18 Executive Producers says something), either way, Replicas is an embarrassment from all involved.