Keanu Reeves is one of these actors who you can enjoy by simply watching. No one can claim he’s a particularly good actor, but he brings a charisma to a role that a lot of other actors can only dream of. We’ve seen it throughout his career, from the now iconic role of Neo in The Matrix, through to his recent big-hitter, John Wick (which also boasts his impressive martial arts skills). Even in his earlier, goofier roles he was watchable; Parenthood sees him as the stoned dreamer and he manages to pull a lot of that films biggest laughs (seriously, that’s an underappreciated movie), while Ted Theodore Logan is always great to “hang out” with. Even when he’s struggling to make things work, like his hilarious turn in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula adaptation, where he attempts an English accent and fails brilliantly, there’s something endearing and fun about his presence.
So, when Keanu Reeves can’t make your movie at least mildly watchable… well, there’s a problem.
Siberia is a film with lots of problems, and the fact that Keanu Reeves actually appears here is something of a mystery. His career has been on something of an up and down trajectory recently, with highs and lows all over the place. This definitely represents a low.
It’s not that Siberia is a particularly bad film, it’s just that it’s so stupendously boring I actually considered switching it off, reading the Wikipedia synopsis and kind of just paraphrasing other reviews. Sadly, for me at least, the Wikipedia page lacks an in-depth synopsis, and I feared that maybe the entire thing was some sort of test by the guys at BRWC to make sure I was actually watching and reviewing films correctly, so spent the last third of the movie waiting for some strange glitch or weird text to appear on the screen. The point being, I wound up watching the film from start to finish (okay, I went on my phone a couple of times, leave me alone) and it most certainly wasn’t an engaging experience.
It’s a confused film. It wishes it was Fincher’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, a stylish and cool character drama wrapped up in an engaging and engrossing plot involving conspiracy, corruption and sex, but actually it’s closer to the kind of thing you used to catch late night on Channel Five – back when most of us only had terrestrial television. It looks good, but there’s nothing beneath the surface. And it struggles to decide if it wants to be a deep and engrossing character study or a pulpy, noir-inspired crime thriller, and as a result it winds up being neither, and doing that pretty badly.
Seriously, I question again quite what Keanu Reeves is doing here. Does he really need to do this? Did he have faith in the script? I’m not sure quite why. But then I remember he’s the guy that was also in Eli Roth’s Knock, Knock, so… yeah, maybe he’s not the best judge.
The plot is paper thin, and, truthfully, I’m not sure I fully got all of it by the end. It twists and turns to give the illusion of a more complex narrative, but there’s nothing to lock onto here. A more talented and experience screenwriter or filmmaker might have utilised the opportunity to explore any number of the interesting ideas it throws up, but under the leadership of second-time director Matthew Ross (his first film being the crime drama Frank & Lola, which I haven’t seen but appears to be getting more love) it winds up dropping threads as quickly as it introduces them.
Considering that this kind of in and out, twist and twist again stuff is happening all the time it makes for something of a mystery quite how the film can feel so slow paced. Nothing seems to happen for long stretches of time. We have endless sequences of people discussing plot points. It’s a film heavy of expositional dialogue and light on visual storytelling, which is a big no, no as far as I’m concerned.
For anyone expecting an exhilarating, John Wick-esque action thriller you’re going to be sorely disappointed. This isn’t that. The marketing is most certainly misleading on that front. The film meanders, leading us around on a series of pointless side-quests that never seem to full connect, the larger narrative never really sustaining the momentum quite enough.
It’s a shame, a good movie exists in here somewhere, and occasionally we do get flashes of it, but the disparate pieces don’t really add up to a satisfying whole.
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