Replicas | Jeffrey Nachmanoff | January 11, 2019
Keanu Reeves has been in making some interesting career choices in recent years, dabbling in martial arts films, the John Wick series (with the third coming out later this year), and minor roles in indie/arthouse films. Now, there’s another odd choice to add to the mix with the ethical sci-fi drama Replicas.
Will Foster (Keanu Reeves) is a scientist at Biodyne, a government research facility based in Puerto Rico, working desperately to find a way to fuse the human brain with synthetic models, creating a robotic human that will act as their new bodies. Will and lead scientist Ed Whittle (Silicon Valley‘s Thomas Middleditch) come close on a recent subject but ultimately fall short, testing the patience of their boss Jones (John Ortiz, most recently seen in Bumblebee), with threats to cut their funding if there’s no solution soon.
This becomes the least of his worries as he’s set to leave for a fun Thanksgiving vacation with his wife Mona (Star Trek Into Darkness‘ Alice Eve) and kids (Emjay Anthony, Emily Alyn Lind, and Aria Lyric Leabu). Their journey takes a tragic turn when they get into a terrible car accident that kills everyone except Will. Only instead of calling the police, he calls Ed, hoping that they can use their scientific expertise to bring back his family – salvage their memories using the Biodyne tech, clone them (as Ed just so happens to also be a cloning expert), and bring them back to life.
If you’re rolling your eyes reading that, just imagine having to sit in front of a screen and watch it all play out.
One goes to the movies in hope of a little escapism and using one’s imagination, but Replicas asks a lot of its audience to believe that this ludicrous story could actually go down. Director Jeffrey Nachmanoff makes boneheaded decision after boneheaded decision, injecting a shoddy semblance of life into writer Chad St. John’s painfully lifeless script. There are many perplexing routes that this film takes (such as Will pretending to be his deceased family on their respective phones to keep up appearances) and some glossed-over plot points that are touched on once or twice and then ignored. Is it bad writing or editing? Pick your poison, I guess. That, along with some shoddy CGI, makes this a scientific experiment in testing their audiences’ patience.
Nothing new is brought to the table here and it doesn’t help that Nachmanoff frames it all in a way that never gets you invested. When Will has the painful duty of carrying the dead corpses of his beloved family out of the water, he deposits their bodies like it’s just another errand he has to check off his list. Pretty much everything that goes down is played with a casual nonchalance that doesn’t fit the surreal sci-fi nature of the premise – that is until the film suddenly pivots into a more generic action-driven finale that is completely convoluted past the point of no return.
Aside from the many unintentional laughs because of the nonchalance, there’s absolutely no joy to be had. I can’t entirely blame the cast for phoning it in with such a painfully dreadful script, but I’m sad to say that no one brings anything to this film, not even Keanu Reeves. The film never embraces the elements of sci-fi in a thoughtful or engaging way and isn’t even the sort of bad movie you can have fun with. It’s just a draining experience and time lost that you’ll never get back.
It’s only January, but Replicas is already a front-runner for one of the worst movies of the fresh-faced 2019 movie season. Then again, it is dumping ground season, and this is just another entry after last weekend’s Escape Room and this weekend’s The Upside and A Dog’s Way Home.