This second feature for director Matthew Ross (“Frank & Lola”) sees him paired with Keanu Reeves to bring this odd blend of Russian Gangster movie and romance to the screen.
Keanu Reeves (“John Wick Chapter 2“, “The Matrix”) is Lucas Hill, an American diamond dealer attempting to get a lucrative deal off the ground with some shady Russian gangsters. His business partner goes missing with the merchandise and he is forced to head to Siberia to try to find him; once there he starts a romance with local bartender Katya, played by Ana Ularu (“Outbound”, “Inferno”).
Plot wise, this film is relatively straightforward – there are two main threads, the progressively disastrous diamond sale being orchestrated by Lucas and the romance that he strikes up along the way. Unfortunately, the film never really seems to get a grip on which of the plots it is most interested in, creating some really odd tonal shifts as the narrative develops.
We are never really given a reason to root for Reeves’ Lucas. We know he has a wife at home (played in the briefest of cameo roles by Molly Ringwald) and he doesn’t seem to especially care, he also appears relatively indifferent to his relationship with Katya until the plot contrives a reason for him to return to her.
Part of the reason why we may not care for Lucas is the way that he is played. Much has been said about Reeves’ underplayed acting style in previous roles, this can work well when set against the background of a fast paced plot, lots of action and larger than life villains (“The Matrix”, “Point Break”, “John Wick”); however, in this case much of the film rests on Reeves and he doesn’t give away much at all, leaving the viewer at a loss as to why they should care about his romance or his deal.
Siberia has an odd tendency to over-direction in the sex scenes between Lucas and Katya, the camera lingers longer than is comfortable at times and the number of these scenes adds little to the story and introduces an element of the erotic thriller into the mix. There is one scene in particular in the final third of the film that is especially jarring and it’s consequences are more or less completely unexplored.
Perhaps the biggest achilles heel Siberia has is how it suffers in comparison to Reeves’ more recent work in John Wick. Although Siberia has no intention of matching John Wick’s operatic set pieces and breakneck pace it does appear to owe some inspiration in a number of areas. The set design, wardrobe, lighting and ‘off the shelf’ Russian gangster cliches all borrow heavily from John Wick but without the kinetic action (or a plot device featuring a beloved pet) this feels ponderous, self indulgent and frankly, boring.
In summary, Siberia is slow and ponderous, it’s characters are undeveloped and unsympathetic and it’s plot is unsatisfying. Without Keanu Reeves’ involvement this film would likely have slipped under the radar totally which may have been for the best.