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Review: 'Replicas' will test your limits

Posted Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 5:11 PM Central
Last updated Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 5:12 PM Central

by John Couture

Ever since John Wick came out, everybody wants to be in the Keanu Reeves business. They especially want Keanu in their heavy action knock offs or sci-fi mind benders.

This is where Replicas comes in.

A good science fiction film asks questions and brings up moral conundrums. A great science fiction film attempts to answer them. Replicas is neither, but gets a B- for the effort I suppose.

Keanu plays a neuroscientist (hold your laughs until the end) who is on the verge of transferring human consciousness into a computer. After his latest failure, his family is predictably killed in a car crash and his grief compels him to do the unspeakable.

To be clear, the high-concept ideas behind Replicas are admirable. What is human consciousness? What are the ethical and empirical consequences of breaking the laws of human nature and circumventing death? How does it feel to play God? These are axioms that have been explored many times over in the science fiction genre to various ends and degrees, I just wish that they had followed through with this movie.

After a compelling start, the movie shifts into slow gear while we try and hide our disbelief that Keanu can spell neuroscientist let alone complete the math required to map the human mind onto an inanimate object. Co-star Alice Eve is compassionate and believable as his wife with a firm grasp of her moral compass while Keanu leads to bizarre and ambiguous moral decisions and ultimately the whole film basically devolves into the same old boring thriller traps.

There was a bit of interesting new ground when a shortage of human pods forces Keanu to make a Sophie's Choice between his three kids. Naturally, he then has to delete the dead child from the brain scans of the rest of the family and live with this dichotomy. That's interesting and I want more of that and the resulting turmoil and the dysfunction that sets in once Alice Eve starts putting one and one together. But instead, we are left going from car chase to shoot out and these lofty thoughts are never revisited satisfactorily.

No, to borrow liberally from Frankenstein since Replicas has no problem doing that, it feels like the screenplay was simply a mish-mash of four or five movies. The good news is that two or three of them are rather interesting. The bad news is the rest of them are not and sadly those are the ones where they pulled the third act from.

I get it. You have Keanu Reeves. You want him to be action-star Keanu Reeves and not introspection, navel-gazing Keanu Reeves. But, you can successfully marry the two. For instance, I think Ex Machina is a fine example of a science fiction film that successfully ponders the bigger questions while also upping the action sequences. Heck, it even ponders several of the same ideas that get tossed aside in Replicas.

All in all, I found the movie to be both interesting and grating at times, but I ultimately couldn't forgive them for the creative choices they made that led up to the anticlimactic finale. To me, it was the culmination of so many wasted opportunities that I was simply just exhausted by the film. I didn't really care one or the other in terms of resolution, I just wanted the credits to roll.

Naturally, your mileage may vary, but if you're looking for high-brow science fiction with a healthy dose of action, you could do so much better elsewhere. Replicas is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.