Saturday, May 28, 2016

Movie Reviews: Exposed

directed by Gee Malik Linton 
The listed stars of this film are Keanu Reeves and Mira Sorvino. But that is a bait and switch. They get a fair amount of screen time, well at least Reeves does, but they aren't very important to the story at all. Their roles could have each been played by other people with little change to the movie. We can't really judge effort but neither of the supposed leads appear to be giving it their all in this flick. As you might expect that's much more obvious with Reeves than Sorvino. 

While Sorvino is almost doing a parody of an east coast street smart extroverted Italian-American, Reeves is somnolent throughout the entire movie. He speaks in mumbles and is hard to understand. He is one low energy dude. It would be interesting to know what attracted Reeves and Sorvino to this movie. I wonder if they just really liked the script or were doing a favor for someone or wanted to help out lesser known people by attaching their name to this movie. Or maybe JUST MAYBE the studio wanted more marketable stars (read white stars) attached to a story that otherwise is dominated by less well known black and hispanic characters. 

The movie's Black director and writer, Gee Malik Linton, apparently became so irritated by interference with his film that he took his name off the movie in favor of a pseudonym. I don't like micromanagers either. Who does? But he who pays the piper calls the tune. Anyway I scribbled all that to inform you that if you decide to see this movie because of Reeves and Sorvino, please remember that they aren't the important ones in this film. This film fails miserably as a cop thriller because Reeves can't be bothered even to pretend to have the strutting testosterone drenched swagger so stereotypically associated with members of the NYPD. Reeves was miscast. 

Speaking of blasts from the past Big Daddy Kane also appears in this movie though I didn't immediately recognize him. Kane and Reeves have changed in appearance over the years. Time waits for no man. It certainly didn't wait for them. So it goes. But although the film doesn't work as a cop thriller it is something that almost worked or would have worked as a bit of magical realism as found in Pan's Labyrinth or The Miracle at St. Anna. Basically if you just ignore the portions with Reeves you have a pretty interesting and thoughtful socially aware film. The actual lead in Exposed is Ana de Armas. She is playing Isabel De la Cruz, a Dominican-American schoolteacher in NYC. She's married to Jose De La Cruz (Isamel Cordova), also Dominican and a Marine serving in Iraq. Isabel lives with her husband's family-his mother, sisters and brother Rocky (Gabe Vargas). The entire family skypes with Jose as often as they can. 

The shy and loving Isabel will occasionally skype privately late at night with her husband to show him some of what he's missing. Rocky has done some prison time. He certainly looks the part of a tough guy what with the neck tattoo, dead eyes and huge pit bull Lucky that he's rarely seen without. But actually Rocky is now a conscientious and even kind man who is very protective of his sister-in-law. He's also living right, working at a butcher's shop and avoiding criminal temptations. He has some secrets and troubles of his own but he's not the sort of man to burden his mother, sisters or sister-in-law with those.

When Isabel wants to go home from the nightclub Rocky escorts her to the subway station to ensure that no one bothers her. He also gives her a knife for protection. Well something happens in the virtually deserted subway station. In a wonderfully depicted surreal moment Isabel watches a silent albino man walk in mid air to see if the train is coming. And that is only the beginning of a number of weird impossible visions that the devoutly Isabel witnesses. After leaving the subway Isabel struggles to find words to describe her visions. She doesn't even know if she should tell her in-laws. Religious doesn't mean crazy. But Detective Galban (Reeves) knows that something else happened in the subway that night. A cop, his partner Joey Cullen (Danny Hoch) was found dead. And it would have been right around the time that Isabel was there. 

Joey's widow Janine (Sorvino) is upset that one of THEM apparently killed her husband but she's not necessarily missing him. Galban's bosses also don't seem to be as gung-ho to find a cop killer as they should be. Galban focuses on people who could have had reasons to kill Cullen, including the local top hoodlum Jonathan Jones (Big Daddy Kane). Galban's mostly inept actions help move along a chain of overreactions. But as mentioned that's not the real story. You may find the real story to be much more interesting, tragic and transcendent than who killed a dirty cop. 

There are clues sprinkled throughout the film which let you know what's really going on. Unfortunately you may miss them getting annoyed with Reeves. This movie is crammed to the brink with symbolism. I wouldn't say it's heavy handed but it would be of interest to know how many people figured out what happened before the ending. This is a film which is worthwhile watching but would have been much stronger with less Reeves. It's a cliche but also a fact that Reeves' acting is wooden. There are only a few places where his distant approach works and this film wasn't one of them. The trailer is utterly misleading as to what's going on but since it avoids spoilers that is probably a good thing. The film has dialogue in English and (subtitled) Spanish.
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