Thursday 22 November 2018

Frozen wastes: "Siberia"

The only explanation for the existence of the murkily bizarre treasure-hunt movie Siberia is that producers in Beverly Hills have realised there are riches in Russia worth tapping, much as their colleagues have begun pursuing certain markets in the Far East: it's a hunt for treasure about a hunt for treasure, which risks making these 100 minutes sound way more interesting and exciting than they actually are. (All tapped out by multiple Marvel movies, Western audiences have been abandoned to their Netflix subscriptions.) For this reason alone, a stubbly Keanu Reeves has been sent to the Siberian wastes with the aim of getting his hands on a rare diamond. Naturally, he will fall foul of local heavies during this quest; naturally, a local waitress (Ana Ularu) will throw himself at him, no matter that he has a wife at home, played for no immediately apparent reason - is she big in Vladivostok? - by Molly Ringwald. The novelty is that the bulk of the quote-unquote action has been shot around abandoned quarries and other frosty-bleak industrial backwaters intended to strike a chord with the presumed audience, and much of the negotiation is conducted in your actual Russian, in which we're supposed to believe the Keanu character is fluent.

That faux-Far Eastern cinema currently being engineered by the major studios trades in robots, monsters and not a trace of sex, the easier to circumnavigate regional censors; faux-Russian cinema, by the looks of things, is going to be awfully male. Siberia's idea of a good time is two goons banging on at great length about their willies, men talking business in hotel suites or meeting in the woods with guns and dogs, and a new twist on the old blood brothers trope that happens to involve, ahem, semen. Keanu's regular hookups with the waitress are meant to dispel some of the muskiness, but become so frequent the film often seems to be hymning the heroism of a married man getting his end away on a business trip over any tenacity or fortitude he might display while retrieving the diamond. Nevertheless, it remains too joylessly ploddy to serve as the commercial thriller its star's presence indicates it wanted at some stage to be, and too drably artless to be the Point Blank-style abstraction director Matthew Ross sometimes gestures towards. Nobody's helped by a script - by A Simple Plan author Scott B. Smith - full of lines agents might say to one another while sitting on park benches ("If you want to fly today, find the man who controls the weather"). Keanu could only have done it for the Air Miles and Stolichnaya; there's not a huge amount in it for you and me, save a sorely furrowed brow.

Siberia is now playing in selected cinemas.

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