Every now and then, you get a film that truly makes you think, sticks with you and leaves an impression on your mind for a long time after you watch it. Sad to say, though, this one isn’t one of them. Replicas is a Science Fiction flick that had a pretty limited theatre release early this year following a modest film festival premiere. However, it was greatly panned by both critics as well as audiences…and for good reason, which we will discuss further a bit later on.
The film stars established and well-appreciated actor of John Wick and The Matrix series fame Keanu Reeves, as well as British actress Alice Eve, who is perhaps best known for her role in the newer Star Trek entries and the TV show Entourage. It’s also directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff who worked on The Day After Tomorrow (another notable sci-fi flick), among other things. The premise of it all is pretty straightforward, too. One day, a man named William Foster, who works on biological cloning experiments in a laboratory setting in Puerto Rico, sets out on a family trip with his wife and three kids. However, the perfect storm happens both quite literally as well as figuratively: an ensuing car crash happens, which takes the lives of his children and his other half.
A sad story indeed. Soon after (well, not really, as he thinks of this idea literally a minute or two after tragedy strikes), Will Foster decides to use his experiments to his advantage and hopefully bring his family back to life. His experiments were originally being used to implant the minds, memories, and functions of deceased persons into android-robots (see below, think I-Robot with Will Smith knockoffs). However, this plan comes at the cost of sacrificing his youngest daughter, since there are only three pods to place the family members’ bodies into.
Confused yet? Because I know I sure as hell was with all the plot holes and inconsistencies found within this film. The plot reeks of the type of stuff you’d typically find in wannabe Twilight Zone/horror movies where the dead come back to life as evil beings a la Pet Sematary by Stephen King. I’ll be honest, going into this and from seeing some of the supposedly ‘action-packed’ advertisements and TV spots associated with this trainwreck of a thriller, I expected something completely different and more uh, well…I don’t know, suspenseful and fast-paced perhaps? Considering Reeves’ involvement and his track record with such movies among other aspects.
However, what we get here is quite the opposite: a shell of a sci-fi drama with very little action or suspense except in the final act (last half hour or so in an approximately two-hour flick), lazy writing filled with missing plot points and maybe stuff that was cut out, haphazard acting and minimal charm on Reeves’ part, slow pacing, and everything else that goes into a substantially below average, mediocre offering. The synopsis itself is more or less reminiscent of horror movies of the past like Flatliners and The Lazarus Effect, except this one isn’t scary, suspenseful or thought-provoking. I would’ve cared more about the characters if they were in a better movie, and the only silver lining and upside of all this is the moderately satisfying happy ending.
Now, I remember the first experience I had of watching other science fiction movies with themes relevant to this. And with all the knowledge gained from viewing those, I can affirm that the mentality behind this one is amateur at best. A couple of positive things to note on this flick include the dark atmosphere in the first half, as well as the stellar musical score and acting by Alice Eve in the movie’s latter end. Additionally, although I didn’t really care much for the main villain, I thought that the motivations were rather interesting. Everything else here is somewhat of a mess, however.
The lack of originality or creative writing rears its ugly head at certain points despite the somewhat dramatic scenes. I get that being minimalistic works for certain films some of the time; however, aside from a mildly decent and unexpected plot twist later on involving one of the main characters, there isn’t a whole lot of suspense here, either. And, as far as the action scenes go, there’s (*spoiler alert*) one fairly brief car chase, a guy getting knocked out by Reeves, and a couple of scenes involving deranged malfunctioning robotic clones that are actually somewhat gripping and well-executed. Well, they would be if they were actually shot competently and the camera didn’t cut away from the action so dang quickly.
All in all, I advise all to avoid this flick like the plague and set one’s attention to superior viewing experiences such as the collective past works of Keanu Reeves, as well as the previously mentioned thriller movies and horror flicks. This one is basically a dud on most accounts and the lack of innovation on a rather disturbing concept is kind of alarming here. There’s quite a bit that can be done with the concept of the reanimation of a deceased and badly maimed suburban American family; also, the lack of actual thrills is something I found to be borderline insulting given the people involved here.
If I’d have to rate it out of ten, my rating would honestly have to be like around the 3.5 — 4 range. It’s not the worst, but Replicas is just so intensely underwhelming and empty that many parts of the story really fall flat in the end. All the little positive things about it just kinda get overshadowed by the negatives. Aside from being a hardcore/die-hard Keanu fanatic who just HAS to see all of the man’s movies for yourself, there’s just not much to warrant a legitimate reason to view this one. I’ll take any Matrix flicks or hell, even the rather lackluster Johnny Mnemonic from the 1990s over this one any day as far as Reeves’ sci-fi performances go. I just hope he or the director has more luck with some slightly more engaging or promising projects in the near future.