Trust Keanu Reeves to elevate garbage to the realm of self-aware high-art. If only everything surrounding him in Replicas wasn’t so abysmal.
In the interest of allowing a burgeoning independent publication to retain some dignity, I have given Replicas the score it technically deserves. But please ignore it. Don’t be put off by it. Because despite being truly terrible garbage, this ridiculous cyberpunk thriller from Jeffrey Nachmanoff is the year’s first must-see.
Keanu Reeves is a producer on Replicas, and also plays the lead role of scientist William Foster, who is once again a pastiche of his pop-cultural archetype, so you have to imagine that on some level he’s in on the joke. And there surely is a joke here, as Replicas is so implausibly bad right from the opening scene that it’s impossible to imagine a world in which anyone saw it and thought, “I’m going to include this in my movie.” In that scene, for what it’s worth, Keanu maps the human brain and puts it inside a robot, which promptly goes nuts and rips its own face off.
That’s the opening scene, you understand. And the whole film is like that! One minute Keanu is having his entire operation and workforce threatened by his scenery-chewing boss (John Ortiz) who disparagingly refers to him as “Bill”, and the next he’s ferrying his inexplicably hot wife (Alice Eve) and cute daughter on a rainy night-time excursion that predictably ends in tragedy. Using his genius and some clones supplied by Thomas Middleditch, Keanu, in the throes of grief, sets out to revive his family in a horrific Shelley-esque mad-scientist scheme, which starts out as some kind of darkly comic domestic farce and then, at the end of the second act, morphs into a truly insane action-thriller for no reason at all.
There are parts of Replicas that are clearly intended to be quite serious, but none of them are, which is all the better. What Keanu delivers here is a kind of riotously self-aware performance that has him say and do things that nobody would in a way that only he can. The film’s genius – intentional or otherwise – is that all the other characters in Replicas gradually morph into versions of Keanu themselves; not physically, but spiritually, like they’re all channelling some bizarre meta-method version of him that always reacts to situations while displaying entirely the wrong emotion. The effect is, truly, hilarious.
As a result almost everything that happens is Replicas could be removed from the rest of it and function on its own as a kind of surrealist vignette. The film’s full of scenes that make no sense whatsoever and yet somehow fit snugly into the overall story, which is less about a man gradually losing his mind than it is about a world becoming so insane that he seems well-adjusted by comparison. This is a truly confounding and undeniably entertaining piece of utter trash, and you must see it.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.