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edge staff writer


I think you’re a clone now – ‘Replicas’

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There’s something freeing about walking into a movie that you know is going to be bad. Sure, you strive to enter into a cinematic experience with an open mind, but the truth is that keeping the bar nice and low can be beneficial to all involved.

However, there are some films where the bar simply can’t be lowered enough. Films like “Replicas.”

“Replicas” is so bad as to be baffling. The story is nonsensical, a jumble of illogical decision making and word salad jargon. The effects border on the laughable; the CGI work would have been bad a decade ago, let alone today. And the performances are wooden to the extreme, with the shocking exception of star Keanu Reeves, who might be the most emotive performer in a cast for the first time in … ever.

Reeves stars as William Foster, a neuroscientist working for a biotech company. His specialty is synthetic biology; his top-secret project involves mapping the neural patterns of recently deceased individuals onto synthetic brains and connected to robot bodies. Working alongside fellow scientist Ed Whittle (Thomas Middleditch, TV’s “Silicon Valley”), Foster struggles to get his process to work – much to the chagrin of his boss Mr. Jones (John Ortiz, “Bumblebee”).

Foster’s solace comes from his family – wife Mona (Alice Eve, “The Con Is On”), son Matt (Emjay Anthony, “A Bad Moms Christmas”) and daughters Sophie (Emily Alyn Lind, TV’s “Code Black”) and Zoe (Aria Lyric Leabu, “The Thinning: New World Order”). But a tragic traffic accident takes them away from him as well … or does it?

Foster retrieves the bodies of his family and calls Ed, who conveniently enough happens to be on the cutting edge of cloning research. And so, with surprisingly little convincing, Ed agrees to help William, stealing equipment from Bionyne so that William can clone his family in the garage and transfer their neural networks into the new bodies. However, he can only procure three cloning pods, meaning that William must choose one of his children to stay dead.

(And yes, his older daughter is named Sophie so it’s LITERALLY a “Sophie’s Choice” moment and that is just one of the many, many times I laughed when I almost certainly was not supposed to.)

He opts not to tell his newly-resurrected family what he has done, because why start making good choices now? Of course, it turns out that there’s a lot more going on in the shadows at Bionyne; it isn’t long before William is facing not just the moral difficulties of his situation, but a whole lot of powerful people looking to gain access to his research, including the conveniently-timed breakthrough that might just be the key in making transfers to synthetic brains viable.

With no idea who he can trust, it’s up to William to do whatever it takes to ensure that he doesn’t lose his family again. Or whatever.

Where to begin? How about the gigantic holes scattered throughout every level of the narrative? Nothing about William’s plan makes any sense. The timelines, the processes, the aftermath – none of it adds up in the least. Logical leaps and staggering stupidity are on display throughout; I don’t need full-on verisimilitude for an off-brand sci-fi movie, but it should at least make some kind of sense.

And the effects. Jesus. The effects work looks like someone did it on their laptop back in 2015; it’s flat and jerky and generally low-rent. There are a couple of sequences that are out-and-out laughable (are you seeing a pattern?); one fight scene in particular is just … I don’t have the words. You have to see it for yourselves. Except you shouldn’t. At all.

Oh, and that ending. The final scene is so unbelievably, ridiculously terrible in so many ways that you’d be forgiven for thinking that the entire experience was an elaborate and pointless prank at your expense.

The performances are generally what you’d expect from the movie that I’ve described thus far. The supporting cast ranges from earnest mediocrity (Ortiz, the kids) to barely-concealed credulity (Middleditch) to blank-eyed “whatever” (Eve). And then there’s Reeves, who – against all reason or rationality – appears to be actually trying, bless his heart. As an unabashed Keanu fan, I was rooting for him to somehow make this dumpster fire work. Alas, polishing this turd proved to be well beyond his capabilities.

The best science fiction is the kind that uses genre trappings to explore complex ideas. “Replicas” briefly gives the appearance of going that route, only to utterly refuse to engage at all with the moral complexities of its central plot. Everyone is just so blasé about the whole situation; scientific advancement, theological ramifications, ethical consequences – none of it is addressed with anything other than the storytelling equivalent of shrugged shoulders.

“Replicas” is the kind of movie that should have quietly come and gone on Netflix rather than receiving anything like a wide theatrical release. It is poorly conceived and poorly executed on every possible level. It’s got a couple of moments so awful that they almost become art, but not enough to elevate this movie to “so bad it’s good” status. No, this movie is so bad it’s … bad.

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Last modified on Sunday, 13 January 2019 15:44


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