The description of Replicas on the Internet Movie Database reads “A scientist becomes obsessed with bringing back his family members who died in a traffic accident.” Pretty much. Keanu Reeves stars as Will Foster, a scientist trying to bioengineer the human mind into robot bodies. He thinks he’s working for medical purposes, but he later finds out his sneaky boss Jones (John Ortiz) has militaristic aims. Sorry for spoiling that for you.
So Foster’s wife, Mona (Alice Eve), and three children die in a horrific CGI car accident at the start of the movie. Instead of reporting them dead, he enlists his friend Ed (Thomas Middleditch of Silicon Valley fame) to help clone them using his mind-transfer program. In doing so he discovers the secret to replicating the human mind. It’s a short movie, and by the time he succeeds there isn’t much runtime left to sort out the whole “evil boss who wants to cut up his clone family” ordeal.
Thankfully the writer, Chad St. John, manages to tie everything up with a finale that is dumb in impressive and unexpected ways. I was a little in shock as it happened and in the time I’ve had to think about what transpires as Replicas comes to a close, the less I have to say about it. It simply has to be seen to be believed. I’ve not seen an ending quite like this in a long, long time. It’s foreshadowed yet unearned. And the stinger, promising some kind of sequel … well, I’d watch this setup.
Hard to go any deeper without spoiling the movie’s sole great surprises. What isn’t surprising, though, is that Reeves is once again stuck in a role that requires more from him than deadpan or stoicism. That doesn’t mean Reeves is bad. I’m a believer in the perspective that Reeves is a great actor with a limited range; at this point nobody hires him to play roles for which he isn’t suited, and they’re clearly asking him to star in Replicas in the same way a low-budget schlock studio would ask Nicolas Cage to do it. You’re getting what you want out of the actor you hire, and here you have Reeves saying crazy shit about neurochemistry and philosophy. It’s enjoyable and it’s purposeful. The only difference between Reeves and Cage is that Reeves has the place of mind to leverage his singular talents in a respectable way … usually. This is probably the least of his small productions in recent years, but it’s by no means unwatchable or embarrassing.
Calling Replicas a dumb movie isn’t necessarily saying it’s a bad experience. It isn’t. It continually shocks and surprises. Reeves basically saves the bulk of the movie by bringing himself to it as best he can, up to and including the mind-melting finale. It has to be seen to believe. It’s opening on the big screen, which I recommend against. Just eventually rent or watch this on your VOD or streaming service and just enjoy the schlock.