Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Directed by: Declan Dale
Starring: Ana de Armas, Keanu Reeves, Mira Sorvino
At the subway entrance, a young woman fresh from a night of clubbing makes her way slowly towards the platform. Her footsteps reverberate around the long yellow-lit tunnel as she passes zombiefied figures finishing up the night shift. On the platform she’s alone, until the heavy tread of footsteps approach. What she sees is odd, the rest of Exposed dedicated to revealing the mysteries of that moment. Except it’s hard to care, because this film, supposedly butchered by the studio, is a complete mess.
It takes something bad to force a director to remove their name from a film. In this case, Gee Malik Linton, who also writes and produces his debut feature, is credited as Declan Dale. The story goes that after writing a surreal, bilingual family drama centring on a Dominican woman in New York, Keanu Reeves came on board in a small role to help gain funding. Lionsgate then bought the rights and removed 20 minutes to make a Reeves centred crime thriller. If that’s how it went down, it’s a disgrace, and the impact on the film is clearly visible.There are two strands at play, weaving incompetently around each other. The woman from the subway, Isabel (Ana de Armas), comes back from her late night experience haunted by strange visions. Living with her husband’s family while he’s away fighting in Iraq, hints of past trauma gradually creep out. Elsewhere there’s Reeves as Detective Scott Galban. His partner is dead, stabbed in the back, and he’s determined to find the culprit. It’s not the easiest task in the world. His partner was a corrupt cop engaging in countless felonies including a run in with Isabel’s brother-in-law. Not only is the list of potential killers large, the police want the investigation dropped to prevent the leak of uncomfortable truths.
There’s quite possibly a good film buried in the middle of it all, though it’s impossible to tell. The narrative jumps all over the place, chopping and changing at will. Characters suddenly pop up dead, facts are revealed in a rush, and nothing makes much sense. When everything finally wraps up with a twist, it has no impact because the rest of the film is a garbled mess. The twist is visible a mile off anyway. With everything around it cut out to build Reeves’ role, there’s no real mystery left to reveal.
Reeves adds no A-list stardust, sleepwalking through proceedings as the traditional jaded cop. Perhaps he’s hoping if he pays no attention he’ll wake and find the film he originally signed up for. The only bright spark is Ana de Armas. She starts fresh-faced and eager, gradually beaten down by a world closing in around her. It’s almost possible to care about her situation before random cutting reduces tension all over again.
Who knows whether Gee Malik Linton’s film, originally titled Daughter of God, is any good. His cut is lying around somewhere so maybe we’ll find out eventually. It’s easy to see why he doesn’t want to be associated with Exposed though. After all the changes, it’s just plain awful.