Keanu Reeves returns to theaters this week in Replicas, and unfortunately, unless you’re a die-hard fan of the many wonderful actors in this film, you shouldn’t run to see it. The science-fiction thriller/family drama/futurist treatise is so poorly executed, it doesn't even come close to living up to its lofty ambitions. That said, the cast works so damn hard you find yourself smiling in spite of it all.
Reeves plays Will Foster, a robotics expert who’s moved his family to Puerto Rico so he can work on organic memory transfer-ish for his impatient billionaire boss who’s mysteriously just named Jones (John Ortiz). He takes the bodies of recently dead soldiers who’ve signed over their corpses to science and repeatedly attempts to move their still viable consciousnesses into a sophisticated robot/ (Thomas Middleditch is a fellow scientist person who’s working on creating organic clones, but that’s not important until later.) But much like that episode of Westworld when James Delos' clones can’t get past breakfast without short circuiting, no consciousness transplants have worked. Jones is frustrated and threatening to cut Foster’s funding if the project doesn’t show positive results. Foster’s convinced the project is one breakthrough away from working, but it’s not until his entire family dies in a car wreck that he gets his chance to shine.
On their way to a vacation, the family gets caught in a massive storm which leads to a brutal and deadly car accident. It’s worth noting that the accident is extremely well-shot and very visceral, as is Reeves’ palpable despair at the loss of everything he loves in a matter of seconds. In that context, his decision to try out his as yet unsuccessful science on his wife and children makes sense, but that doesn’t make it any less predictable. But Replicas doesn’t stop there; as if the philosophical and very real physical drawbacks to this plan weren’t enough, once Foster decides to illegally co-opt his company’s equipment and science, he decides to go all in and create clones of his family instead of downloading them into a robot (there’s only the one robot, apparently). But there aren’t enough cloning chambers for every family member, so, in the funniest Iphigenia meme ever, Foster is forced to choose between his wife and kids... and his daughter Sophie ultimately remains dead. The only reason this moment made it into the review is because it sets up the best Keanu quote since, “I know Kung Fu.” When his wife asks him about the missing girl way later in the film, he slays us all with an excruciating, “There weren’t enough pods.”
The first third of Replicas bites off a giant mouthful of story in Foster’s ethical quandaries, the tragic deaths of his family, his maniacal quest to bring them back, and the necessity of covering his tracks from his co-workers. Oh, and of course the clones malfunction, but that’s, like, Clone 101, so you probably saw that coming. What you definitely will not see coming is the third act reveal that Jones is a nefarious, but totally nebulous, global crime lord! John Ortiz (Bumblebee) is awesome, and sells Jones’ sinister nature as well as he possibly can, but honestly, after “There weren’t enough pods,” the movie can’t stop itself from becoming a bullet train running completely off the rails.
To its credit, as the Foster family fully bypasses any consequences for their hilariously bad science and finishes the movie battling Jones for survival, Replicas does get ridiculous enough to be funny. And for better or for worse, the everyone in the film is fully committed. Reeves, Ortiz, Eve and Middleditch are heavily responsible for elevating the project to any kind of watchability, if only as a guilty pleasure. Alice Eve’s Mona doesn't make a ton of sense due to her flip-flopping ethics -- she’s an emergency room doctor who raises questions about her husband’s work, but later fully supports his decision to resurrect (most of) their family. But you don't really have time to care before the movie blasts into the third act like a bat out of Hell.
The Foster family ends the film fighting for their lives and eventually they’re forced to bargain their way out of their predicament. That brings us to the twist ending which is too fun and strange to spoil, but suffice it to say Replicas closes on a wonderfully strange note that gives it a weird, sci-fi curb appeal. If you're a Keanu fan, there's plenty to enjoy in this movie (not the least of which is the fact that it was shot in Puerto Rico and according to John Ortiz, hired a crew that was 90% local), but maybe think twice before seeing it in theaters.