The Movie Waffler New to Amazon Prime Video - SIBERIA | The Movie Waffler

New to Amazon Prime Video - SIBERIA

siberia keanu reeves review
An American diamond dealer finds himself stranded in a small Siberian town.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Matthew Ross

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Ana Ularu, Boris Gulyarin, Ashley St. George, Veronica Ferres

siberia poster

What happened to the film star? Where did the marquee names, the glittering icons, the beautiful people all go? The film ‘star’: a metaphor suggesting something sparkling and out of reach, above us all yet still magnetically influencing the ebb and tides of our own meagre existences. You just don’t get them anymore, not in the way that you used to. It’s hard to imagine Madonna doing a 2018 redux of Vogue featuring the current Hollywood constellation (‘Zendaya, Gal Gadot/ Seth Rogan, smoking pot’?). There are probably lots of reasons why film stars don’t exist anymore (content driven streaming services, the demise of institutionally controlled print media, social media - somehow), but when one does abide, shining like the Northern star among the flash in pans, it is cause for cineaste joy.

Keanu Reeves is such an idol. Keanu, even the name has iconic resonance, associated now and forever with an almond shaped ageless face, laconic charisma and compelling performances, performances which stretch the possibility (and plausibility) of cinematic presentation, with lines delivered with such obscure diction that often the very exegesis of the script is open to interpretation. Then there’s the glorious meta-mystique, the tantalising speculation about his sexuality (a homoerotic reading of The Matrix, with its androgynous symmetries, is long overdue), his confident graduation from stoner kid to besuited and often sinister characters, that careful curation of roles (unlike Nic Cage, who, love him, is forced to swallow any old shit flung at him), and always his smooth, seemingly eternal beauty (now roughed up with an enviable beard, the grey flecks of which are the great man’s only concession towards mortality).

siberia review

A quirky action star, Keanu’s roles have always actually been diverse and interesting in themselves; recently, along with his John Wick renaissance, he was incredible in Eli Roth’s Knock Knock and it was funny to see him pop up as a nasty landlord in the godawful The Neon Demon. Personally, I like my Keanu to be a tough guy with a fatal streak of kindness or sentimentality, and, with the pounding drums which open Matthew Ross’s Siberia signifying a thriller, along with Keanu’s (Lucas’) role as a diamond dealer, it looks, just as with wealthy Lucas and his expensive lifestyle, like we’re quids in.

The plot has something to do with a blue diamond (always with the blue these days; Heisenberg’s meth, Marvel’s tesseract…), which Keanu is selling to some generic Russian bad dudes. Problem is that his Russian partner goes missing, which leaves Keanu stranded in some shit-kicker town in the cold wilds of Siberia. He does get into a few fights with the locals and, of course, starts a steamy affair with a local waitress, Katya (Ana Ularu - very good and also not very ugly).

siberia review

For nigh on two hours that’s it really as the film effortlessly, slowly moves towards its denouement. The languid pace which the opening scenes set up is a groove that the film finds hard to shake off. If it wasn’t for Keanu, the light swooning about the sleek structures of his face, the narrative lazily orbiting about his star persona, I’m not sure how much there would be to recommend Siberia. The love affair is touchingly and believably construed, with the sense that the infinite desolation and snowy extremities of the landscape is forcing our leads to warm intimacy (although, sorry Keanu, the sex scenes, as always with Mr. Reeves, are hilariously awkward and unconvincing). And, following its espionagey opening, Siberia intriguingly rides towards Western horizons, with its stranger in a small-town stylings (and the climax’s shoot out siege).

Within this generic pattern, the film accordingly begins to comment upon masculinity; there is a bizarre penis comparing scene which kicks off a fight in the café, most of the banter and insults specify being a ‘girl’ and themes of honour permeate. But this thematic pursuit is rendered unsound by the otherwise broad and brutal stereotyping of the Russians, who all have chips on their shoulders the size of the Kremlin, apart from sexy Katya who is given to proclaiming homilies concerning wisdom garnered from her ‘grandpa’.

siberia review

The film’s script was written by Scott Smith, author of two incredible novels which gave way to a couple of great films (A Simple Plan and The Ruins, and that’s it: if a genie offered me three wishes one of them could well be that Smith wrote a few more books), but there is none of the bare tension and moral compromise that made Smith’s literary canon so deliciously moreish. That said, it passes pleasantly enough, but a lot of how successful Siberia is for you will depend upon your tolerance of Keanu. At one point, discussing the sapphire macguffins, a character fudges the etymology of the word diamond, stating that the root word is from ancient Greek and means "unbreakable, inflexible": Siberia is no diamond in the rough, but such adjectives could yet just as easily be applied to the enduring star persona of its shining lead. Diamond geezer!

Siberia is on Amazon Prime Video UK now.