US / 102 minutes / color / Grindstone, Emmett Furla Oasis (EFO), Elevated, Fortitude, PalmStar, Company Films, Lionsgate Premiere Dir: Declan Dale (i.e., Gee Malik Linton) Pr: Robin Gurland, Gee Malik Linton, Keanu Reeves Scr: Gee Malik Linton Cine: Trevor Forrest Cast: Ana de Armas, Keanu Reeves, Gabriel Vargas, Big Daddy Kane, Mira Sorvino, Melissa Cardello Linton, Christopher McDonald, Danny Hoch, Venus Ariel, Sandy Tejada, Ariel Rolando Pacheco, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Stephen Thompson, Denia Brache, Laura Gómez, Jeanette Dilone, Danny Guzman, Leopold Manswell.
Ana de Armas as Isabel.
One of the most unusual neonoirs I’ve watched although, if you’re looking for a slick commercial movie, look elsewhere. For ninety percent of its running time, perhaps even more, it failed to convince me: I was enjoying it, but I didn’t feel fully involved. And then suddenly along came its resolution—one that’s as revolutionary as the one in The USUAL SUSPECTS (1995), but if anything even better hidden beforehand—and suddenly all those wayward strands from earlier made complete sense. At the end of it, when I’d finished gasping, I remarked to Pam that I could absolutely and completely understand why Keanu Reeves, having made about ten lifetimes’ worth of income in hit movies like Johnny Mnemonic (1995) and The Matrix (1999), should choose to back, as both producer and supporting actor, a niche project like this one.
Keanu Reeves as Detective Galban.
Strange things are going on in New York City. Young Isabel de La Cruz (de Armas) is seeing impossible creatures, whom she is beginning to believe are angels. Meanwhile, Detective Galban (Reeves), is being told by his boss, Lieutenant Galway (McDonald), to curb his instincts about probing into the murder of Galban’s partner, Detective Joey Cullen (Hoch), because Joey was a corrupt, vicious cop and a full investigation would likely reveal stuff that’d embarrass the NYPD. It’s an assessment of Joey that Joey’s widow, Janine (Sorvino), seems to share.
Mira Sorvino as Janine.
For a long time these storylines seem unrelated. But then Isabel discovers she’s pregnant in what appears to be an immaculate conception, and strikes up a sudden deep friendship with a little girl, Elisa (Ariel), who seems strangely unwilling to go home . . .
Although the movie works very well in the form in which it was released, apparently the original was a far more surreal, cerebral piece. Because of Reeves’s involvement and role, the folk at Lionsgate thought they were getting a more straightforward thriller—something in the John Wick mold, perhaps—and were horrified by what was delivered. The movie as we see it is thus largely an artifact of the editing studio—which is presumably why director Gee Malik Linton is credited as Declan Dale. Naturally I’m now desperate to see the original, if a copy of it even exists; but the extant version has a fascination of its own . . . so long as you don’t come into it expecting a Keanu Reeves thriller.
Venus Ariel as Elisa.