Super Star John Wick – Keanu Reeves’s glacial turn lays bare troubled project
Keanu Reeves plays a cop hunting for his partner’s killer in this supernatural-tinged thriller.
What a strange and frustrating mess this is. Writer-director Gee Malik Linton reportedly envisaged a lengthy metaphysical head-scratcher of a film with thriller elements, called Daughter of God.
It was wrenched from his hands by the distributor and chopped down to make some sort of slow-moving police drama with a slow-moving lead performance from Keanu Reeves as a troubled cop. Linton disowned it, and the film now carries the Alan Smithee-type director’s credit of “Declan Dale”.
Would the original, full-length film have been a masterpiece? I guess we’ll never know. I suspect it would just be a longer version of this, in which a beautiful young woman, Isabel de La Cruz (Ana de Armas), experiences ecstatic dream-visions connected to a crime that Detective Galban (Reeves) is investigating.
There are some interestingly designed scenes, but also some rather odd borrowings from Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible, and it all hangs on a very tiresome reveal of the sort that has been popping up since the days of German expressionism.
Critic: Tom Huddleston
Where do you draw the line between enticingly strange and just plain bad? It’s a question that comes up a lot watching ‘Exposed’, in which Keanu Reeves plays a bitter New York cop on the trail of his partner’s murderer. Recut so drastically that the director had his name removed, and absolutely slated by the critics, this could be dismissed as a misguided mess. But open up to it a little bit – give it the benefit of the doubt – and ‘Exposed’ has a grimy, off-kilter charm not seen since the heyday of ’70s exploitation directors like Larry Cohen.
Reeves may be the headliner, but the real focus here is Isabel (Ana de Armas), a young woman suffering from bizarre, seemingly supernatural visitations. When she falls unexpectedly – and impossibly – pregnant, Isabel’s mind cracks open even wider. Asking far more questions than it could ever answer, ‘Exposed’ ends on a note so flat and predictable that it undermines all that went before. But there are strange and memorable moments here, and a mood of eerie foreboding that’s hard to shake. Now, how about a director’s cut?
If it’s any consolation to the parties involved, Exposed could have ended up being worse; however, it’s unlikely that it could have been much better. Trainwreck-bad movie enthusiasts will be disappointed to find a film largely defined by its lack of energy, in which every scene seems to be stalling for time.
One crawling Steadicam shot, in which a gangster played by Big Daddy Kane engages a Haitian drug dealer in a semi-improvised discussion of criminal enterprise, brings to mind the zonked-out direct-to-video rapper vanity projects of the late ’90s and early 2000s. Reeves—who looks his age for once, thanks to an unflattering Cold War G-man haircut—is miscast as a Neanderthal loose cannon who beats up witnesses in front of their kids. (There’s some sick humor to the decision to re-name the movie Exposed, given that Galban spends much of the film wearing the tan raincoat of the archetypal flasher.)
Intercutting two storylines is a tension-building technique that goes back to the silent era, but here, it just adds to the air of somnambulance; sometimes, the last shot of a scene is held for so long that the actors appear hypnotized into standing in place, waiting for a call of “Cut!” to snap them out of it.
Linton’s taste for working in long takes (lensed by Trevor Forrest, who shot The Leisure Classand apparently specializes in behind-the-scenes fiascos) guarantees that Exposed looks a cut above the average yawn-inducing procedural, while also making sure that the writer-director’s arthouse inspirations don’t go unnoticed. He’s seen Irréversible, Bad Lieutenant, and Mysterious Skin, and taken the wrong lessons from all of them.
It’s been reported that the studio stepped in after disagreements arose about the amount of Spanish-language dialogue in the film (most of De Armas’ scenes) and the size of Reeves’ role. But there’s nothing here to suggest a subtle, supernatural-tinged psychodrama had been thwarted by someone’s attempts to turn it into a cop movie; on a fundamental level, this is soapy, pretentious twaddle, complete with a subway-lurking rapist, incoherent religious symbolism, and a dog that gets run over for emotional effect. Exposed was not screened for critics.
Distributor: Lionsgate Premier
Production: Company Films, Emmett/Furla Films, Fortitude International, PalmStar Media, Remark Films
Cast: Ana de Armas, Keanu Reeves, Christopher McDonald, Mira Sorvino, Big Daddy Kane, Venue Ariel, Michael Rispoli,
Director: Declan Dale
Screenwriter: Gee Malik Linton
Producers: Robin Gurland, Gee Malik Linton, Keanu Reeves
Executive producers: Cassian Elwes, Katie Mustard, Elie Samaha, Randall Emmett, George Furla, Barry Brooker, Stan Wertlieb, Nadine de Barros, Robert Ogden Barnum, Ike Suri, Jaclyn Ann Suri, Kevin Frakes, Buddy Patrick, Ankur Rungta, Scott Fischer, Galt Niederhoffer, Dan Grodnik, Seth Kramer, Curt Kramer
Director of photography: Trevor Forrest
Production designer: Tania Bijlani
Editor: Melody London
Composer: Carlos Jose Alvarez
Costume designer: Amela Baksic
Casting: Ellyn Long Marshall, Naria E. Nelson
Rated R, 102 minutes