Review: Siberia (2018)

John Wick goes to Russia? Yeah, not really.

A nefarious diamond trader Lucas Hill (Keanu Reeves) runs into trouble on the eve of selling twelve rare blue diamonds in St Petersburg. His business partner is missing, the diamonds are gone and the ice-cold answers lie in Siberia.

Siberia is a leaden crime thriller, starring Hollywood’s most understated leading-man, Keanu Reeves, who plays Lucas an affluent yet secretive middle-aged man, clearly battling an existential crisis – life imitating art? It is a curious question to unpick, as Lucas leaves behind his wife Gabby (Molly Ringwald, in a tiny cameo role), and his stale marriage for a clandestine business trip to the cold and grand streets of Russia’s cultural capital. There’s a frozen air of romanticisation blanketing the country’s recent and unruly past (the Skripal poisoning) – an elegant hotel and a slender hostess greet Lucas with professional charm and a smile, belying their countries fractious relationship. As the barren plot unravels, Lucas storms about huddling against the cold chasing down his missing partner Pyotr (Boris Gulyarin), and the diamonds. Lucas’s inscrutable face habitually pauses for just a moment with a look of how did I get here?… Yes, good question.  

In the backwoods of Mirny, Siberia, Lucas finds himself semi-stranded at an airbnb-ish log cabin, fruitlessly searching for Pyotr. And with some time to kill, Lucas indulges a belated mid-life crisis by having an affair with a local cafe owner and the village’s rural beauty, Katya (Ana Ularu), which only a man as handsome as the immortal Reeves could pull off. The set-up is abandoned, as Lucas and Katya’s frostbitten tryst – them humping on a creaky boho-bed, and post-coitally dissecting Lucas’s life and marriage in lingering but watchable scenes, very much fuels the dramatic engine of the film. And yet, it does feel like we have been sold something different than what was advertised: no punch ups, shoot outs, or car chases. And perhaps we’ve been a little short-changed too.

A feeling Boris Volkov (Pasha D. Lychnikoff), the oh so stock Russian gangster can probably relate too, as he sporadically pops up asking where his fifty million euros worth of blue diamonds are? Finally, Lucas returns to St. Petersburg for a tetchy showdown. And in a very odd turn of events – Lucas and Katya find themselves in a scene straight out of – Boris demands a partner swapping double fellatio, so he and Lucas can be brothers. Katya is rightly traumatised, and it only serves as a thin plot device, later stopping Boris’s stone-faced associates from asking too many questions about the origins of the diamonds. And ultimately, it turns out under his aloof charm, Lucas is just another bored and overly spoiled man looking for a high-stakes thrill at everybody else’s expense.

It is a shame really, Keanu Reeves is having his own ‘McConaissance’ of sorts, as John Wick (2014) proves he is still everybody’s favourite ass-kicking dude. And it’s admirable the 00’s billion dollar grossing A-lister has tried his hand yet again at playing a character few in his position would  – neither a good or bad guy, but just a guy, warts and all. I’m just not sure the trappings of Russia’s icy tundra, gangsters and hot-to-trot gals best serves him. Interestingly, Reeves is credited as a producer and financier of the film, clearly in a reflective mood at this point in his career – a man who has everything materially, yet is oddly sidelined. But I’ll watch Keanu do anything, yes I’m that guy. And I just hope he chooses a film befitting of his uniquely expressive face or Kung Fu kicking talents next time around.

Siberia is a journeyman crime thriller that veers off into the wilderness of a tepid erotic drama, rather than the ass-kicking set-up of a botched mega diamond deal in Mother Russia.  

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