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Review: Exposed – “Unsettling revelations, striking visuals”

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The experience of viewing Exposed (formerly titled, and much more interestingly so, ‘Daughter of God’) felt like witnessing the first cut of the film. Except, had this been the first cut, and I was the top dog of the studio that commissioned it, I would have gone J. Jonah Jameson and told them, in a colourful manner, to get back in the editing suite. Haphazard editing squanders a film which, had it been considered more and afforded more time to sort its shit out, may have been an interesting supernatural thriller.

The story concerns a South American girl called Isabel (Ana de Armes), living in New York with her family. Following an early departure from a night out to travel back home through the subway (we’ve all been there) – alone! might I add – she has a supernatural encounter with a levitating albino gentleman (can’t say we’ve all been there). While some may be wondering what on earth she was drinking that night, it seems like a legit happenstance with an angel and she soon becomes pregnant. Could it be the second coming? Her story coincides with the plot of the lugubrious, hard boiled, Detective Galban, played by the stoic Keanu Reeves, who’s investigating the murder of his partner, who by all accounts is actually a hideous human being.

At first ignorant to the work of director, ‘Declan Dale’, it came as little surprise to learn that the name is actually pseudonym. It lacked surprise because A) it’s a ridiculous name, and B) you can tell from the quality of the film. Yes, like the not-so-great work of Alan Smithee, Declan Dale was so displeased with the studio’s re-cutting of his film that he decided to fight to get his name legally removed and insert an unreasonable fake one instead (apologies if your name is actually Declan Dale). Word is that the director intended to make the film with Isabel as the central character and with Keanu in a small supporting role and had, shall we say, more artistically astute intentions in mind. But Lionsgate (the studio behind the film), decided that they wanted a cop actioner with Keanu Reeves headlining; so they improvised one from the material they had, even if it made absolutely no sense. Apparently, they hadn’t seen Point Break, or Speed, or Street Kings, and realised that this world had plenty of good Keanu Reeves cop thrillers, thank you very much. Keanu does, to his credit, give his all; imbued with vulnerability following his ultra-macho turn in the totally awesome John Wick, he delivers a powerful performance, primarily in a scene in which he rings his young son whom he has essentially abandoned to talk about how the guys at the office celebrated his birthday with a cake. Except, there was no cake. Or guys at the office. Sad Keanu.

No, the problem is not Keanu Reeves, whose charisma can never be understated, nor Ana de Armes, who is also giving it her all and delivering. The baffling, tedious nature of this film can be credited to lacklustre, scattershot editing in which huge chunks of action appear to be missing, sub-plots are left to dangle in mid-air, and other things you considered relevant are just skipped over and forgotten about. The result is a film divided between a muscular cop thriller and the more artfully considered expression of traumatic child abuse, the follies of patriarchy and endemic violence and corruption. Overall, it’s a bit of a mess.

Having said that, the film is not devoid of some unsettling revelations, striking visuals and an unexpected plot twist. There is also a vague interest in numinous religious themes and the supernatural which add some gravitas to this generic plot. Even so, it is no more intriguing than an X-Files episode, and as supernatural Keanu Reeves thrillers with religious themes go, I’d stick with Devils Advocate or evenConstantine. Exposed won’t be remembered for anything other than the production calamity the end product is a testament to.

1.5-out-of-5

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