Generally speaking, films involving diamonds, gangsters, and infidelity that culminate in a gunfight tend to lean towards the exciting. Normally Keanu Reeves in a movie such as this adds grit and deadpan determination, but unfortunately, this thriller (used more loosely than Daewon Song’s trucks) can’t make the equation work.
Sometimes a movie tries so hard to be something it’s not, and in its effort becomes a lackluster piece worthy of criticism. This is Siberia in a nutshell.
Director: Matthew Ross
Release Date: July 13, 2018
Lucas Hill (Reeves) is a diamond salesman who provides the bright product for shady people. While waiting for a deal in St. Petersburg, Hill’s partner goes missing–along with their supply–and the trail takes him to Siberia. It’s there he meets Katya (Ana Ularu), a local cafe operator who ends up falling for the American visitor as he returns the favor. It’s a love story that never, at any point, feels real or believable. Hill has a wife back in the states, but she doesn’t care about him and he doesn’t care about her. That and a closely-examined diamond are about the clearest things in this film.
As Hill’s search for his partner drudges on with de-escalating excitement, his Russian buyers put the pressure on. Hill is able to bide time with minimal effort in order to find his partner and the rest of their diamonds. Easy-going gangsters aren’t exactly the most fear-inducing, and inducing fear is predominately how gangsters get the things they want.
There are relationships beyond Katya’s that pop up all too conveniently to offer Hill advice and assistance as the movie trudges on. An even lesser threatening gangster tries to buy the diamonds, but after a quick call and a simple decline from Hill, simply gives up on obtaining the precious jewels. There are Katya’s always drunk brother and his always drunk friends who first assault Hill, then take him into the woods to hunt bears. The worth of these characters by the end of the movie is about the same as a fake diamond.
It’s frustrating to see an actor who’s been in numerous action movies (with another in the works) not have the ability to handle a gun. While Hill isn’t exactly an assassin, merely seeing Reeves fumble with a gun in the final standoff was difficult to watch. Squaring off against a squad of angry Russian mobsters with nothing but a rifle and hands shaky enough to mix milk and ice cream goes exactly as well as you might expect.
During the course of the movie, hypotheses form. Is there backstabbing? Are they not who they say they are? When is the twist coming? Simply put, asking these questions is really just overthinking the plot. If there’s one thing the film reflects, it’s the lack of excitement that matches Hill’s marriage. It’s a movie that wants to be a thriller with a passionate romance and ends up delivering on neither.