God bless Keanu Reeves. He is a living legend and a true Hollywood treasure. When he’s put in the right movie, like Bill & Ted, Speed, Point Break or the John Wick trilogy, he conjures the kind of magic that is beloved by most and cherished for being its own unique thing. But boy, does the guy know how to make a stinker. Though when he does, it is undeniably watchable, and that’s what we have with Replicas. It’s an amazing disasterpiece, and the first truly good bad movie of the year.
I’ll give it five out of five fingers, or stars, or whatever critics are using to sum up their movie going experience these days, because this is just so much pure fun. It’s trash, for sure. But glorious garbage that recalls the best moments of Johnny Mnemonic, and I swear there is even an homage to that craptabulous cyberpunk thriller locked within. Keanu Reeves is a producer on Replicas, and it’s clear he’s in on the joke. It’s almost like he’s taunting the gang over at How Did This Get Made, just daring them to go ahead and wallow in this muck.
Is this a comedy? Perhaps. There are some laugh out loud moments that are just batshit crazy. Director Jeffrey Nachmanoff has a one note idea laid out in front of him, and watching the set up, the story becomes a little maddening in that there is nowhere for it to go. So where will it go? To some crazy heights to keep the audience entertained, that’s for sure. This is one of the most unpredictable movies I’ve seen in quite some time, and with the reality of the situation breaking down at each wicked turn, you’ll never see the climactic end moments coming. It will leave you asking, ‘What the HELL did I just watch?’
Keanu Reeves plays William Foster. Sometimes people call him Bill. And there is a genuine look of confusion on Keanu’s face whenever this happens. His boss in the movie, who becomes the villain, played by John Ortiz, gleefully calls him Bill every chance he gets, degrading him in the most passive aggressive relationship I’ve ever seen between a protagonist and an antagonist in a hunk of sci-fi cheese that whiffs so strong it’s gotta be brie. Ortiz, playing a greasy shit called Jones, takes each ‘Bill’ and gleefully slams it into Keanu’s ear in a playfully intimidating why. And the entire movie, you literally expect Keanu to shove him up against the wall, and say in his most Keanu way, ‘My name is WILLIAM!’
We don’t get that moment, but you can feel it dripping off these two guys the entire drive. The set up has Keanu playing a mad scientist who is trying to map the human brain and place it into a robot. That keeps failing, and the opening moments of the movie are delivered in a sing song of techno-babble that will have some people frowning, and others cheering, cause it’s clear that this is going to be Johnny Mnemonic’s spiritual sequel.
In what must be the longest day ever, Keanu maps the human brain, puts it inside a robot. The robot malfunctions, rips its own face off, the experiment goes horribly wrong. William is reprimanded and threaten with termination. Bill realizes he’s late, races home to meet his wife at the front stoop. They are going on vacation, and it’s off to the races. Keanu’s William has no time to adjust between doing a horrific Frankenstein type botch job that threatens his entire staff and workplace (located in Puerto Rico), to playing I Spy With My Little Eye in the car with his kids on a rainy night drive to a boat with a very slutty name.
What the hell is going on here? Replicas looks like it might be a slow moving bit of metal from staring at the trailers, but this thing clips along at an Apache Princess pace. And Keanu slowly breaks down and goes crazy throughout. It’s very much his version of a Nicolas Cage type performance, where Reeves turns up the Keanu to 11, delivering lines that don’t belong in any movie. Yet when they come out of Reeves’ mouth, it’s head-shaking hilarity. What it is, really, is charming. Lines about orange juice and spoilt milk, Christmas trees, and missing family members. A nerve-racking interaction with cops. And one breakfast cooking scene that needs to be extracted and turned into its own short movie, because out of context it must be some sort of crazy masterpiece made of its own fruition.
Thomas Middleditch is in on the joke. It’s a little distracting that he plays a computer wiz and scientific genius creating clones and dabbling in some very bad scientific business, especially after watching him for a number of years on Silicon Valley. Thomas tries to mentally fight Keanu, blatantly making fun of him on screen at times, but there is a weird chemistry here, and like a cult leader, Keanu eventually brings Middleditch over to his side before the end, and everyone in the movie is kind of Keanuing it up before it all comes crashing to an end, which will make your eyes widen with absolute glee and terror.
On that rainy night, trying to take his kids on that inappropriately named boat, William’s wife, played by Alice Eve in a performance that is as tasty as cherry pie, tells him to slow the car down. Seconds later they have a near miss with a semi truck. Everyone is terrified and happy to have made it out alive. Then the big shocker comes, and Keanu Reeves’ entire onscreen family is killed. I’m not giving anything away. It’s the main push in the trailers. Now, he will use his mapping and Middleditch’s clones, to bring his family back to life.
Soon, Keanu is cuddled up next to the stuffed unicorn of his dead daughter, hiding in the basement, trying to mad scientist his family back into existence. As given away in the trailer, he has to make a Sophia’s Choice. There are four dead bodies and only three cloning tanks. So who will he send off into the ether? I won’t give that away. But watching Keanu Reeves have to make some serious life choices is just…Funny. You can’t help but laugh. And the interactions between William and Middleditch’s Ed are purposefully full of intended humor that works in weird, magical ways. It almost makes one wonder why they didn’t just push it all the way into comedy territory, but then you realize you wouldn’t get some of the truly baffling moments that will make this a sure fire cult classic in the very near future, had they done so.
The main thrust of the movie deals with Keanu’s mission to bring back his family. And at first it all sounds a little trite and stolid. Been there, seen that, done it before. But Nachmanoff keeps this thing energized like it’s hooked to 13 car batteries. Yeah, there is an inexplicable scene where Keanu steals a bunch of car batteries that doesn’t entirely make any sense. But neither does anything else, and the big reveal towards the end of the second act is a big, ‘No shit, Sherlock!’ Moment that makes you wonder just how smart William, Ed and the rest of this team really are. Because their new discover seems like a no brainer.
Replicas is a genre smorgasbord. At first, it looks like another Transcendence type experience, that big bomb starring Johnny Depp. But this quickly goes careening down its own path full of big laughs, lots of hard hitting action, some science lab insanity and an ending that is just a giant kick in the nuts that will have you cheering and question your sanity all at the same time. ‘Am I really seeing this?’ The best part is, it’s set up for a sequel. And, it ends with one of those obligatory scenes of all the heroes on the beach, enjoying their new lives.
If they made Replicas 2 right now, I’d rush out to watch it. Cause I know it’s going to give me some enjoyment in this life. Replicas is dumb fun at every turn. And you have to enjoy it while you can. I’d be interested to hear how all the actors feel about the finished product. Keanu definitely looks like he’s in on the joke. And half way through, it appears that he whispered the joke into Middleditch’s ear, and then word slowly trickled out to everyone else in the cast and crew.
if you love Johnny Mnemonic, then you’re going to love Replicas. It’s a blast on a purely visceral level. In fact, I kind of want to watch it again right now. There is a scene where Keanu Reeves is crying blood. And Middleditch asks him about it. Keanu Reeves gives one of the best responses ever. And like the rest of this movie, its the kind of hilarious that will leave you making faces for hours to come. Did Keanu just reveal the meaning of life? Yes, I think he did.