2019 gets off to a weird start with “Replicas”, a sci-fi thriller with barely a speck of science-fiction and even less in terms of thrills. It’s not the abysmal film that a mere surface glance would lead you to expect. It’s just a hard movie to figure out mainly because it seems constantly unsure of itself. Is it a morality tale, a horror film, a dark comedy? Heck if I know.
Keanu Reeves stars as a neurochemist(?) named William Foster who has recently relocated his family to Puerto Rico to be closer to his employer’s state-of-the-art biomedical research lab. He’s nearing a breakthrough on his pet-project – to copy the human mind of a dead “donor” and transfer it into a synthetic brain. His boss at Bionyne (the kind of shady high-tech lab name you would expect in a movie) is breathing down his neck to get results or the stockholders will pull funding and shut him down.
After a terrible tragedy strikes his wife Mona (Alice Eve) and their three children, William slowly descends into mad scientist mode. With the help of his Bionyne assistant (Thomas Middleditch), William attempts to bring his family back to life by doing what any of us would do – smuggle millions of dollars worth of lab equipment into your basement and conduct the same experiment on your family that has failed with every other attempt. What could go wrong?
“Replicas” tries to ask some weighty questions particularly about morality in the face of tremendous grief and loss. But it’s hard to wrestle with those moral quandaries when everything gets so blasted silly. And the movie doesn’t make the most of some of its better ideas. For example, at one point William forces himself to make an intensely painful choice with potentially huge ramifications. As with several other things, the film never gets much mileage out of it.
Then there is the lead performance we get from Keanu Reeves. I don’t know what to say other than it’s strange and at times hilariously off-key. From the very start he seems miscast and out of place. It’s actually pretty entertaining trying to figure out what exactly he’s going for. We get steady shades of Neo, John Wick, and even Ted Logan. And then you have John Ortiz as William’s dogged boss. It’s as if he’s constantly winking at us and subliminally saying “This is some crazy stuff, right?”
I really shouldn’t be too hard on Keanu. To be honest his off-kilter performance is one of the things that makes “Replicas” kinda fun. And even though I did find it strangely entertaining, it’s just too scattered and a little too goofy to get behind it. There are plenty of other ‘playing God’ movies that do this whole ‘bring ’em back from the dead’ thing better.