Siberia Review

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by Casimir Harlow Nov 16, 2018 at 10:03 AM

  • Movies review


    Siberia Review

    While we wait for John Wick 3, Keanu Reeves goes to Russia for some shady diamond deals and falls in love. And, unsurprisingly, nobody cares.

    For his 50th birthday, Keanu Reeves surprised us with John Wick, returning to blockbuster status with a relatively low budget but very stylish feature which provided some of the best action Hollywood has delivered in the past decade. It was a much-needed career resurgence from a star who has enjoyed three distinct peaks in thirty years of filmmaking - '89-94 Bill & Ted, Point Break, Dracula and Speed ; '99-2003, which was defined by the Matrix films; and now the era of John Wick. Interestingly, even during the heights of his stardom (these specific periods), he has suffered a fair few flops, with a slew of 'interesting' choices peppering his filmography.

    Whilst it's understandable that he may not want to just do pure action movies to capitalise upon his post-Wick career resurgence, with the upcoming sci-fi Replicas certainly worth keeping an eye out for, it's also understandable that audiences will struggle to suspend disbelief over the notion that 'the legendary John Wick' could ever wield a gun unconvincingly or get into fights and lose, leaving some of his more middling thrillers like Exposed and, now, Siberia, feeling like thoroughly undercooked examples of the actor merely treading water between better projects.

    Siberia's biggest problem is that it doesn't have any kind of interesting story to tell.

    Reeves plays a seemingly happily married diamond merchant who is selling some very rare blue diamonds to some shady gangsters in Russia, but finds the deal falling apart when his partner goes missing along with the diamonds. As tries desperately to keep all the parties happy - with his own life in the balance - he happens across a young cafe owner and begins an affair, confusing the already volatile situation as the wolves close in.

    Siberia's biggest problem is that it doesn't have any kind of interesting story to tell. There's zero tension to the collapsing diamond deal, despite the ostensible stakes, and there's zero passion to the random relationship Reeves sparks up with the young Ana Ularu, frequently resorting to bouts of seemingly passionate sex to express what their chemistry clearly cannot.

    And Siberia doesn't have much else to say, even if it attempts to introduce some conflict through the young woman's brother and a hunting party. It's all for nought, however, with a horrifically incongruous left-turn that has Reeves go part-Scarface, part-John Wick in the woods for no apparent reason whatsoever, which feels completely out of place in a film where next to nothing happens for 90% of the duration, and where the lead character displays little sign that he's ever going to resort to physical confrontation.

    It's somewhat surprising that the project ever got greenlit in the first place.

    Reeves himself can barely stay awake for the duration. Hardly a method actor, he's enjoyed a certain ease with specific roles - like Neo or, more recently, John Wick. And actually, when called upon to get all angry and spitting about his wife's (and dog's) death, he does a pretty stand-up job. Here, however, his heart's not in it. He doesn't appear to have any interest in his character, or in the reasons why his character is in such a pickle shifting diamonds in Russia - and so why would the audience care? He similarly simply cannot convince in his random relationship with the Russian local, and the lines of confluence between that story arc and the arc involving the Russian gangsters are equally ill-fitting and somewhat random themselves (even ugly in one jarring scene).

    Normally, even in bad movies, there's some way you can see a light from within - how the pieces could have fit together better; been better structured or edited, or better acted - but Siberia is that rare feature which doesn't offer even the slightest hint of a potential path to redeeming itself. Sure, if this were the 90s, and the film were being shot by Paul Verhoeven with lots of sex and violence and a ramped-up style that accentuated the excess, maybe there'd be something watchable here in a trashy kind of way, but that's a big if. With clear intentions of instead making it as a much more low-key, even contemplative indie drama, it's somewhat surprising that the project ever got greenlit in the first place.

    The Rundown

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