REPLICAS

With Escape Room kicking off the 2019 film year, I was surprised that the first film of January ended up being not so terrible. I commented it could possibly be an omen for a good year to come, but who was I kidding? Of course it wouldn’t last! Not only a week later, that good omen started turning bad… Actually, maybe it wasn’t so bad after all, but for all the wrong reasons. 

Research neuroscientist William Foster (Keanu Reeves) works for the company Biodyne, which is experimenting in putting human memories into artificial, robotic beings. Experiment after experiment fails, with no signs of success in sight. That is until William’s family is killed in a car crash and in a desperate attempt to bring them back, he extracts their memories, and grows new bodies for them, using Biodyne’s equipment. Will these Replicas of his family make William whole again, or will they be the thing that brings his life crashing down? 

This is one of the best unintentional comedies I’ve ever seen. There are so many ideas and plot points at play here, that everything feels so rushed, and timed to an almost comic effect. Literally right after William’s family dies, he’s scooping up their dead bodies and beginning his experiments. The entire time, William’s partner Ed (Thomas Middleditch) is telling him what he’s doing is wrong, that he should think about what he’s doing, and all sorts of other valid ethical questions regarding resurrection, cloning, and other sci-fi dilemmas. But does William listen? Of course not! He goes along with it anyway, and then Ed is like, “Okay.” There’s no suspense with William’s experiments either, as aside from few instances, everything pretty much goes along perfectly fine. 

It wouldn’t be so bad if we had a compelling lead, but it fails there too. I don’t really have a problem with Keanu Reeves. He seems like a cool guy in real life and I respect that he has a deep appreciation for film, and does most of his own stunts. However, the guy just isn’t that great of an actor. He’s excellent in silent action roles, but when he actually has to emote, it often comes off as very forced. With Reeves playing a grieving scientist here, he is woefully miscast, delivering almost every line with some sort of exasperated confusion. He’s not the only terrible actor here, though, with Alice Eve and John Ortiz chewing the scenery and overacting any way they can. Nobody was serviced by the absolutely terrible dialogue and direction, but at least Middleditch came out somewhat unscathed, mostly because he plays straight comedy very well. 

A lot of the times, I felt like I was watching a direct-to-DVD sci-fi film from 2005, down to CGI that would look even dated back then. There’s not even a lot of it either, used sparingly, such as when the robots come to life. It still looks like an awful video game, though, but at least the cheapness was consistent throughout, to the set design and lighting. The director clearly went to the Battlefield Earth school of cinematograhy, assaulting us with dutch angles every couple minutes. It’s not as egregious as the aforementioned film above, but when simple conversation scenes cut back and forth from unnecessary dutch angles, I felt like I was going to be sick. The score from Mark Kilian and Jose Ojeda was decent at least, with a simple and catchy melody that fits the film’s tone and drives it. Aside from the unintentional comedy, it’s the best part. 

Whenever a low budget sci-fi flick that was shot three years ago is released in January, you know it’s gonna be a bad good time, and I had a ball with Replicas. Of course, it was all for the wrong reasons, where the total ineptness from the top to the bottom had me in frequent giggle fits. It’s the type of terrible film where when the credits roll, I excitedly look to my friends and say, “That was excellent.” It’s something you could watch with your friends, drink a couple beers or do a few bong rips, and yell at the screen the entire time. A January release if I’ve ever seen one. 

3/10

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